Preview: Derby loss overclouds Zamalek preparations for new season

Hatem Maher, Saturday 20 Sep 2014

Zamalek's preparations for the new seasons are disrupted by a Cairo derby loss to Ahly that was followed by a heated exchange of words between the club chairman and coach

Zamalek players
El Zamalek players react after they missed and lost the last penalty kick by Ibrahiem Salah (unseen) during the Egyptian Super Cup soccer match against Al-Ahly at Cairo stadium, September 14, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

An opening Egyptian Premier League victory for Zamalek over El-Geish will be important to cool down the tensions that boiled over at the club following a Cairo derby loss to arch-rivals Ahly in the Egyptian Super Cup last week.

Zamalek looked as though they would end a lengthy winless run against Ahly stretching back to 2007 after Ahly wasted their first two spot-kicks following a 0-0 draw but the Red Devils roared back to claim a 5-4 win on penalties and lift the Super Cup trophy for the eighth time.

The heartbreaking defeat incensed club chairman Mortada Mansour, who hinted that he would sack coach Hossam Hassan after three matches in charge and went as far as ordering him to make specific changes to his starting line-up.

Mansour, an outspoken lawyer who spent big in the close season to bolster an underachieving squad, said he made those comments in the heat of the moment but he is unlikely to show patience should Zamalek fail to overcome El-Geish.

El-Geish, an army-owned club, opened their campaign with a an emphatic 5-0 victory over promoted Nassr while Zamalek's first league game was postponed due to their Super Cup game match against Cairo foes Ahly.

"We will evaluate the coach only after the end of the season. The board members were just angry because we had very high expectations, given the many players we had signed in the summer," Mansour said in a television interview.

The White Knight signed more than a dozen players in the close season as they seek to win the Premier League for the first time since 2004, after which Ahly claimed eight consecutive titles.

Several new arrivals will be unavailable against El-Geish, including injured central midfielders Ahmed Shaaban and Tarek Hamed. Striker Ahmed Ali was also omitted as Hossam Hassan opted to include newly-signed frontmen Bassem Morsi and Abdoulaye Cisse in the squad. 

In Sunday's other matches, Ismaily will be looking to register their first win when they meet Maqassa after they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Masry in what is dubbed as the "Suez Canal derby".

Gouna, who settled for a 0-0 draw with Ittihad of Alexandria in their opening match, face Ragaa, who lost 2-1 to Maqassa.

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