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Thursday, 20 June 2019

Preview: Egypt's Zamalek desperate for first African triumph in 16 years

Ahram Online , Saturday 18 May 2019
Zamalek
Zamalek chase their first ever Confederation Cup title (Ahram)
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Egypt's Zamalek are desperate to end a lengthy barren run in African competitions as they meet Morocco's RS Berkane in the first leg of the Confederation Cup final away from home on Sunday.

The Cairo giants have not tasted any success on the continental stage since defeating Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in the African Super Cup in 2003.

They came close to winning silverware when they qualified for the Champions League final in 2016, only to lose 3-1 on aggregate to South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns.

While a Confederation Cup triumph can hardly match the lucrative Champions League crown, it will still give Zamalek something to cheer about in a season in which they performed well until the final stretch.

It will also mark the first of a possible treble as Zamalek remain in contention for the Egyptian Premier League and Egypt Cup titles.

The White Knights have won the Champions League five times, second only to bitter rivals Ahly who won eight, but have never lifted the trophy of Africa's secondary club competition. They are making their first appearance in the final.

"The players now have a big chance to write history for themselves," Zamalek's assistant coach Amir Azmi said on the club's official website.

"We came to Morocco to get a positive result. We have the utmost confidence in the players to do that."

Zamalek can take heart from wins over fellow Moroccan outfits Ittihad Tanger and Hassania Agadir in the preliminary round and quarter-final respectively, but they will be anxious over having to play without any stand-in goalkeepers.

In a stroke of bad luck, regular keeper Mahmoud Gennesh was red-carded in the semi-final second leg against Tunisia's Etoile Sahel and second-choice goalie Emad El-Sayed suffered a serious hand injury in the team's 2-1 Egyptian Premier League win over Wadi Degla last week.

That leaves Omar Salah, a rookie 21-year-old keeper who made a couple of appearances in the latter stages of the 2016/2017 season, as Zamalek's only option between the sticks in the crucial away clash to Berkane.

Berkane are making their first ever appearance in the final of an African competition. The second leg will take place at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on 26 May.

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

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