Zamalek, who are licking their wounds following a stunning defeat in the Egypt Cup final, will be keen to make amends when they play their first Egyptian Premier League game on Wednesday.
The success-starved Cairo side face promoted Ghazl El-Mahalla, eight days after losing 2-1 to ENPPI before around 75,000 fans at a packed Cairo Stadium who were disappointed after their team failed to end a three-year title-drought.
Zamalek were absent in the league’s first round after their match against Wadi Degla was postponed following their opponents’ deadly bus crash.
They were due to face El-Mahalla in Cairo but the match was moved to Ismailia after they were given a two-match home ban by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) for crowd troubles during two successive Egypt Cup games.
The EFA said it intends to clamp down on any disorder to avoid a repeat of some ugly scenes, including several pitch invasions, which occurred in the second half of last season following January’s revolution.
“The fireworks were used only for celebration; no one had the intention to riot. We reject that punishment," Zamalek chairman Galal Ibrahim said
"The club should not bear any responsibility; the security personnel can arrest anyone who uses firecrackers. How can the club control the behaviour of thousands of fans?"
Mido is back
The build-up to Zamalek’s game against El-Mahalla was clouded by uncertainty over the future of Zamalek’s newly-signed striker Razak Omotoyossi.
The Benin frontman, who completed a $150,000-move from Swedish side Syrianska last month, was infuriated after Zamalek failed to pay him the first instalment of his contract. Reports suggested that he seeks to terminate the deal.
However, coach Hassan Shehata will be boosted by the return of striker Ahmed Hossam “Mido”, who has made Zamalek’s squad for the first time since rejoining his boyhood club from January after his first appearance was delayed by administrative, fitness and weight problems.
Stars Mido and Mahmoud Abdel-Razek “Shikabala” were recently sentenced to a one-week in jail by an Egyptian court for assaulting three students but the complicated judicial process means they can still go through some appeal channels before the punishment is enforced.
Zamalek will miss right wing-back Omar Gaber, who was ruled out of the match due to a muscle strain.
Elsewhere, coastal side Ismaily, who are also beset by constant financial problems, will be looking to join Ittihad El-Shorta at the summit when they meet Gouna.
Ismaily opened their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Petrojet while El-Shorta got maximum six points from two games after defeating Smouha 2-0 on Tuesday.