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Monday, 25 January 2021

Hotspot: The bid to contain Shikabala

The tactical build up to the Cairo derby is dominated by questions over how Ahly can keep Zamalek's in-form wizard Mahmoud Abdel-Razek 'Shikabala' at bay

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 29 Dec 2010
Shikabala
Shikabala leads Zamalek hopes in Derby
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Ahead of Thursday's derby clash with Ahly, Zamalek's hopes of beating their arch city rivals for the first time since 2007 lie on the shoulders of Shikabala.

The league's top scorer so far this term with nine goals, the talented schemer has been at the centre of most of his team's attacks in recent games. His dazzling tricks have prompted neutrals to anticipate with excitement his duel with Ahly's defense.

The 24-year-old scored a superb goal and laid on an assist in Zamalek's 2-1 league victory over Wadi Degla - their last match before facing arch-rivals Ahly.

"Shikabala is like Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, no one can mark him," Zamalek football director Ibrahim Hassan enthused about his star.

"Even if more than one player marked him, it would not be beneficial for our opponents because Shikabala has all the attributes to elude them."

Shikabala proved to be ineffective in last season's derby when Ahly's ever-reliable defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour marked him closely, cutting his supply lines and repeatedly stealing possession from him.

However, Ashour remains a major doubt for the game due to injury, leaving Ahly's interim coach Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafy 'Zizo' with a selection headache.

The only other recognized defensive-minded midfielders at Zizo's disposal are Mohamed Shawky, who is highly unlikely to feature in the anticipated clash due to lack of match fitness, and rarely-used Moataz Eno.

Egyptian international midfielder Ahmed Fathi, who usually plays as a right-back in Ahly's 4-4-2 formation, could be the man burdened with shackling Shikabala.

Fathi, who makes no secret of his desire to play in the heart of midfield, impressed as a defensive midfielder during Egypt's triumphant African Cup of Nations campaign at the beginning of 2010.

Stopping the threat Shikabala poses could be key for Ahly to recover from their disappointing run and win the 106th Cairo derby.

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