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Preview: Ahly, Zamalek face tough clashes before Cairo derby

Ahly take on Masry in Port Said while archrivals Zamalek host Ismaily in mouthwatering ‎Egyptian Premier League clashes on Wednesday

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 1 Feb 2012
Barakat
Ahly's Mohamed Barakat (Photo: Abdel Hameed Eid)
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Ahly and Zamalek will be keen to overcome tough obstacles before they meet in an anticipated Cairo derby next week when they play Masry and Ismaily respectively in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday.

The bitter rivals are braced for one of the sternest tests of their league campaign, seven days before they face off in the first Cairo derby of the season.

Ahly travel to Port Said to face Masry amid security concerns, given the crowd troubles which marred their meeting in the coastal city last season.

The appointment of Hossam Hassan, who was involved in an infamous touchline altercation with Ahly coach Manuel Jose last season when he was in charge of Zamalek, as the new Masry boss spices up the encounter.

"I hope the match will live up to expectations, given the caliber of both teams, without any sort of troubles. It's only a football match," Ahly football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz said on the club's official website.

"I'm sure that we will get a good reception in Port Said. Masry's new technical staff deserves our trust."

Egypt's all-time leading scorer Hassan, widely known for his controversial remarks and short fuse, has also called on the fans of both teams to solely concentrate on cheering their sides.

Ahly, who are chasing an eighth consecutive league triumph, are second in the table with 36 points, one behind surprise leaders Harras El-Hodoud.

They boast a four-point lead over the success-starved Zamalek, who have not won the league since 2004. The White Knights face an equally tricky test against the inconsistent Ismaily, who are virtually out of the title race after a string of poor results.

Ismaily lost ground on the leading pack after a disappointing goalless draw at home to Masry in their previous game, which was stopped for 10 minutes after around 1,000 of the home fans briefly stormed the stadium despite a crowd ban.

Zamalek's recent fine run also came to a halt when they slumped to a surprise 2-1 defeat by ENPPI, which cast doubts over their title credentials and mounted pressure on coach Hassan Shehata, who is burdened with ending the team's lengthy league drought.

They welcome back diminutive wing-back Hazem Emam, who returned to the team's squad after settling a three-month dispute with the club over financial problems.

Egypt skipper Ahmed Hassan, who usually comes on as a second-half substitute, will miss the game due to automatic suspension after accumulating four yellow cards.

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