Preview: Egyptian league returns after AFCON break as Zamalek cling to hope
Ahram Online , Saturday 20 Jul 2019


The exciting Ahly-Zamalek Egyptian Premier League race returns on Sunday in the final stage of the season after the African Cup of Nations demoted it to a secondary role for nearly a month.

The disappointment of Egypt's last-16 exit at the hands of South Africa on home soil will make way for talks over the usual rivalry between Cairo's leading clubs in one of the most closely-fought races in recent years.

The league resumes with a meeting between Zamalek and Gouna, two days after Algeria were crowned Nations Cup champions with a 1-0 victory over Senegal at Cairo Stadium.

With three matches remaining, including a potential title-deciding derby against Ahly on the final day of the season, Zamalek can ill-afford to drop any point if they are to win the league for the first time since 2015.

They are third in the table with 68 points from 31 games, six behind leaders Ahly who played a match more. Zamalek will be crowned champions if they beat Gouna, Ismaily and Ahly in their remaining matches.

On the other hand, Ahly can wrap up the title with one match to spare if they beat Arab Contractors in their penultimate game on Wednesday and Zamalek stumble against either Gouna or Ismaily.

Zamalek led the table for most of the season, only to falter badly at a crucial stage to allow Ahly, who were boosted by some high-profile January signings, to bridge a seven-point gap and overtake them on top.

Zamalek dismissed Swiss coach Christian Gross, who was shown the door despite leading the team to the CAF Confederation Cup title, and brought in Khaled Galal, under whom the White Knights won the Egypt Cup last season when he assumed the position on a caretaker basis.

But doubts remain over whether the novice Galal can handle the pressure of dethroning Ahly, who won the last three editions of the premier domestic competition.

Zamalek welcome back Tunisia midfielder Ferjani Sassi, a midfield linchpin and a fan favourite who the team have missed since April due to a foot injury.

But they will have to do without key winger Mahmoud Kahraba, who is involved in a contractual dispute with the club and is seeking to leave.

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