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Sunday, 15 December 2019

Cairo rivals Ahly, Zamalek are fully prepared for season-defining derby

Ahmad Hassan, Thursday 28 Mar 2019
Ahly vs Zamalek
Cairo bitter-rivals Ahly, Zamalek are fully armed ahead of a season-defining derby
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Egyptian League defending champions Ahly and current table-toppers Zamalek are well prepared for Saturday's clash between the two Cairo rivals in a derby that many see as the most unpredictable in years.

After a lowly start for the season, Ahly managed to climb the league table and place themselves within touching distance of the top spot, trailing leaders Zamalek by only two points, thanks to their vibrant January transfer window.

Should they win the derby, Ahly, who won their last nine league games under Uruguayan tactician Martin Lasarte, will sit at the top of the standings for the first time this season.

The Reds announced on Thursday that in-form midfielder Amr El-Sulaya had shaken off a minor knee injury he sustained in Egypt's 1-1 draw against Niger in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers and that he was ready for the game.

With midfielders Hesham Mohamed and Hamdy Fathy both sidelined due to injury and Karim Walid out due to suspension, it would have been a huge crisis in Ahly's midfield if El-Sulaya had been also missing from the squad.

Injury-free Zamalek will try to forget their deflating 2-2 draw against sixth-placed Arab Contractors last week when they take on Ahly at Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria in a rescheduled game from week 17.

With Ahly breathing down their necks, the Whites are left with few options other than winning the decisive derby to expand the gap at the top of the table to a relatively comforting five points with 11 games left in the title race.

Zamalek's trio Tarek Hamed, Mahmoud Alaa and Khalid Boutaib are fit to boost the team in the anticipated game, according to the club's football director Amir Mortada.

Midfielder Hamed and defender Alaa were injured in Egypt's 1-0 loss to Nigeria in a friendly on Tuesday, while striker Boutaib also picked up a knock in Morocco's 1-0 friendly loss against Argentina.

"We have spoken to the national team's doctor and both players are ready for the derby," Mortada was quoted as saying by the club's official website.

"Khalid Boutaib is also available for the match as the scans revealed that his injury in the game against Argentina isn't serious," he added.

On Tuesday, Zamalek's Tunisian right-back Hamdi Nagguez was also cleared fit for the encounter after recovering from his muscular 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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