Early season doubts are starting to hang around Zamalek despite their winning start to the Egyptian Premier League, with the formidable form of arch rivals Ahly another reason to worry about their title prospects.
Zamalek labored to two consecutive 1-0 wins over Ittihad and Maqassa in their opening two matches but their lethargic displays raised the alarm bells, with some questioning the selections of Serbian coach Micho ahead of Sunday's meeting against promoted FC Masr.
Micho has yet to settle on the ideal formula to unlock tight backlines as Zamalek often struggle against defensive-minded outfits, which is likely to be the case again when the Cairo club face FC Masr.
Zamalek's disappointing performances stand in stark contrast to the irresistible form of Ahly, who won their opening three matches with a swagger as they look well-equipped to defend the title they won the past four seasons.
Ahly kicked off their campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over Smouha but demolished their next two opponents -- El-Entag El-Harby and Aswan -- with 4-0 and 5-1 victories respectively.
Zamalek, who last won the league in 2015, will have to up their game and produce better attacking displays if they are to keep pace with Ahly.
Micho will have a selection dilemma against FC Masr, however, as influential defensive midfielder Tarek Hamed, one of their best performers over the past few seasons, sits out due to suspension after he was sent off at the end of the win over Maqassa.
His natural replacement, Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, is also out after suffering a serious knee injury that will keep him on the sidelines for at least six months. Tunisian international midfielder Ferjani Sassi was surprisingly left out by Micho, who also dropped his regular central defensive pair -- Mahmoud Alaa and Mohamed Abdel-Ghani.
Micho could field winger Ahmed Sayed, who scored the winner against Maqassa after a superb solo effort, in the heart of midfield.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)