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Preview: Zamalek aim to take advantage of Ahly's internal rifts in UAE clash

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 14 Oct 2015
Zamalek v Ahly
Zamalek beat Ahly 2-0 in the Egypt Cup final in September 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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Having finally ended an eight-year Cairo derby jinx last month, Zamalek will be eager to rub salt into the wounds of rivals Ahly when both sides meet in Thursday's Super Cup in the United Arab Emirates in a rare match overseas as the new season gets underway.

Ahly, hit by unfamiliar internal wrangling and board disputes, are desperate to give their fans something to cheer about after finishing last season without winning a major trophy for the first time since 2004, with bitter foes Zamalek claiming the domestic double.

They also slumped to their first loss to Zamalek since 2007 when a 2-0 defeat handed the White Knights the Egypt Cup title last month.

Ahly also suffered an embarrassing 4-3 loss at home to South Africa's Orlando Pirates to miss out on a place in the African Confederation Cup final, a result which proved the straw that broke the camel's back.

Coach Fathi Mabrouk was dismissed and club icon Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafy 'Zizo' was named as a stop-gap boss to lead Ahly in the Super Cup, a trophy they won a record eight times, including three at the expense of Zamalek.

Two of the three victories over Zamalek, in 2003 and 2014, came via penalty shootout following goalless draws while Ahly prevailed with a 2-0 win in 2008.

"My team is very experienced and can win despite what we are going through," Zizo, who is set to become the club's football director after Portuguese Jose Peseiro was named as the new coach, told the pre-match news conference.

"I care much about the psychological aspects and I'm sure my players can handle pressure," he added.

Away from home

Ahly and Zamalek clash away from home in a competitive match for only the second time in their long history.

Their first meeting was more than 20 years ago when a famous pile-driver from Ayman Mansour gave Zamalek a 1-0 win in the African Super Cup in Johannesburg in 1994.

Zamalek are in a buoyant mood after having a season to remember, with some new signings blossoming including winger Mahmoud Kahraba. Striker Bassem Morsi is also firing on all cylinders, having scored twice in the Egypt Cup win over Ahly.

Morsi, who is usually fielded as a lone frontman in front of two attacking midfielders, was involved in a dispute with outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour a week before the game but it was quickly resolved.

Ahly and Zamalek will enjoy the backing of their fans in a derby for the first time since meeting in an African Champions League game in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El-Gouna in 2013. The six Cairo derbies that followed this game were all played behind closed doors due to security concerns.

"It's better to play in the UAE because of the fan presence," said Zamalek's Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who was the fourth boss to lead the team in a single season.

The match will take place in the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain city. The venue hosts up to 25,000 supporters.

Ahly are sweating over the fitness of Gabon striker and new recruit Malick Evouna, who picked up an ankle injury during Wednesday's training session.

Zamalek's only doubtful player is pacy right-back Hazem Emam, who is also racing against time to recover from injury.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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