After playing two tough games in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday, managers of Ahly and Zamalek football teams decided to give their players a rest for one day before starting preparations for the Cairo derby showdown between the two sides on 9 February.
Zamalek failed to make a positive push ahead of the crucial game against arch-rivals Ahly after losing 1-0 to Ismaily on Wednesday, despite calling for their big guns to take part in the game. Ahly defeated ENPPI 2-0 to move four points clear of perennial rivals Zamalek ahead of next week's Cairo derby.
The Whites called all their stars including forwards Mostafa Fathi, Ahmed Hamoudy, Mahmoud 'Shikabala' Abdel-Razek, and Ayman Hefny--the players who have the potential to make a difference in the games, but they did not meet the expectations and failed to find the Dervishes' nets.
Zamalek chairman Mortada Mansour has expressed disappointment with the players' dip in form during the 1-0 loss to Ismaily in the postponed game of the Egyptian Premier League.
"Losing to Ismaily won't be forgotten as I will respond to the players," Mansour told a television programme after the game.
"The players forgot how to play football after receiving all their delayed fees, moreover the coach dealt with the game in the wrong way," he added.
"We are the title holders and, as I have said before, the champion doesn't lose," he added.
Zamalek players will be rested on Thursday from trainings to start preparations on Friday for Cairo derby showdown against Egyptian Premier League leaders and arch-rivals Ahly on Tuesday.
Ahly remains positive
On the other side, Ahly managed to have a positive push ahead of Cairo derby as they continued their fine run under caretaker coach and club icon Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi 'Zizo', under whom they bagged maximum nine points from three matches following victories over Ismaily, Ittihad and ENPPI.
Two goals from striker Amr Gamal and attacking substitute midfielder Mo'men Zakaria helped leaders Ahly beat Enppi 2-0 in the Egyptian Premier League to move four points clear of perennial rivals Zamalek ahead of next week's Cairo derby.
"I am proud of what the players achieved at Petrosport stadium," Ahly football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz was quoted as saying on the club's official website after the game.
"Beating Enppi and gaining the game's points give Ahly confidence ahead of the Zamalek clash on Tuesday," he added.
The Red Devils launched wave after wave of attacks in the first half as they totally dominated the petroleum side Enppi taking a firm control, with in-form playmaker Abdallah El-Said, who played behind attacking duo John Antwi and Amr Gamal, sending numerous astute passes to the frontline.
"It's one of the team's best games during the ongoing season so the management decided to break its rules and reward players for the superb performance," Abdel-Hafiz explained.
Meanwhile, Ahly caretaker coach Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi has expressed his pleasure with the players' performance during the Enppi game.
"We played a big game against an organised team and managed to dominate the opponents throughout the game as well as leading the leagues table," Zizo said after the game.
"Leading the teams' table is a big responsibility; we have to work hard to save it until the end of the season,
"We will have a break on Thursday to start preparations for the Zamalek game on Friday," the interim tactician concluded.
Ahly, whose eight-season league hegemony was ended by Zamalek last season, tops the table with 35 points, four ahead of the White Knights. Both sides clash in an anticipated Cairo derby next Tuesday.
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