Zamalek lost 2-1 to Ahly in last season's African Champions League final (File photo: Reuters)
Last season's runners-up Zamalek will be looking to erase their recent bitter memory of the African Champions League as they kick off their new campaign at home to MC Alger on Friday.
The five-time African champions were close to ending an 18-year drought in the continent's blue-riband club competition last season, only to suffer a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Cairo foes in the final in November.
They conceded a late goal from Ahly playmaker Magdi Afsha that was hard to take, with their perennial rivals extending their Champions League record to nine crowns after prevailing in what was dubbed the "derby of the century".
Zamalek were due to face Chad's Gazelle in the second preliminary round but were awarded a walkover victory after their opponents failed to fly to Cairo for the first leg.
They were drawn in a tough group that also includes Tunisia's Esperance, whom Zamalek defeated in last season's quarter-final, and Senegal's Teungueth.
"We want to win the competition this season, but first we have to pass the group sage and qualify from a group of death," Zamalek's Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco told a news conference.
"We are seeking to beat MC Alger to give ourselves a good push from the very beginning. We highly respect our opponents but I have full confidence in my players."
Zamalek almost have a fully fit squad to choose from, but they will miss new arrival Seifeddine Jaziri as the Tunisian forward is cup-tied after taking part in the Confederation Cup, Africa's secondary club competition, with his former club Arab Contractors.
MC Alger, who won the competition once in 1976, are making their first group-stage appearance in three years.
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