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Sunday, 19 September 2021

Preview: Egypt's Ahly, Zamalek back in action after long break

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 16 Dec 2015
Ahly 3-2 Zamalek
Ahly beat Zamalek 3-2 in the Egyptian Super Cup, the annual curtain raiser of the season, in October (Photo: Zamalek's official Facebook page)

Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek will resume their rivalry when they get back to action in the Egyptian Premier League on Thursday after a break that lasted more than six weeks as both vie for the prestigious title.

Defending champions Zamalek, who ended the eight-season hegemony of arch rivals Ahly by winning the title last season, face Haras El-Hodoud in Alexandria in an afternoon kick off while Ahly host Smouha later in the day.

Both sides have not played since early November due to the commitments of Egypt's national teams. The senior side defeated Chad in a World Cup qualifier while the U-23 team finished at the bottom of their group at the African Cup of Nations in Senegal to miss out on a place at next year's summer Olympics.

Zamalek are looking to maintain their fine start to the season, having collected 10 points from their opening four matches.

However, they will be hoping the abrupt departure of Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who unliterary terminated his contract after falling out with outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour before taking charge of a Qatari side, does not affect them.

Zamalek clinched the title last season despite being led by four managers, thanks in part to the abundance of talents in their squad, with Mansour spending heavily over two summer transfer windows to bolster their underachieving roster.

Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta will make his debut against El-Hodoud, with Mansour vowing not to interfere in his work after publicly demanding that Ferreira make certain changes to Zamalek's starting line-up following a 3-2 defeat by Ahly in the Egyptian Super Cup.

"I didn't come here for money, God gave me a lot. I came here to make history," Paqueta, who led Brazil's U-17 and U-20 to World Cup triumphs in 2003 and led several Arab sides including the Saudi Arabian national team, said after being officially unveiled as Zamalek's new boss.

Zamalek will miss their main striker Bassem Morsi against El-Hodoud, who made a poor start to the season and lie second from bottom with three points from seven matches, due to injury. Morsi, the team's leading scorer last season, has failed to find the net in the opening four matches.

Ahly are also managed by a new coach in Portuguese Jose Peseiro, who is hoping to turn around their fortunes after they failed to win a major trophy last season for the first time since 2004.

The Red Devils won their opening three league matches before slumping to a surprise 1-0 defeat by Maqassa just before the break.

Ahly will face Smouha, the 2014 runners up who have nine points from seven matches, without a number of new arrivals including out-of-favour Ahmed El-Sheikh and Ghanaian striker John Antwi, who was omitted for "technical reasons".

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