Zamalek coach Ahmed “Mido” Hossam will be eyeing a positive result to silence critics and keep his post when his team face arch-rivals Ahly in the Egyptian league Cairo derby at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Tuesday.
After losing both league and Cup titles to Zamalek, Ahly defeated the Whites 3-2 in their last confrontation in the Super Cup match in October to clinch their sole trophy last season.
Last week, Mido tasted his first loss at the helm of Zamalek when his former club Ismaily inflicted a 1-0 defeat on the Egyptian champions, giving them a reality check ahead of Tuesday's derby.
Zamalek won four games in a row after Mido took over for a second spell early in January, but he was criticised for a series of uninspiring displays despite the abundance of attacking talents at his disposal.
Recent reports in Egyptian media claimed that Mido, Zamalek's third coach this season, could be facing the axe if he loses to Ahly, as the club's management has already begun to search for alternatives.
The White Knights' preparations for the match took a hit somewhat after the recent controversy over the match venue.
Earlier this week, Zamalek's outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour insisted that his club would not face Ahly in Alexandria, saying Ahly had no right to change the three venues they chose to host their games in Cairo at the beginning of the season.
He threatened to boycott the match and to even leave his post before agreeing to play in Alexandria early on Monday after having his request turned down by security officials.
On the other side, Ahly's technical staff preferred to travel early on Saturday to Alexandria to get the players fully concentrated on the match's atmosphere.
Ahly aim to become runaway leaders
The Red Devils, who are without a permanent boss following the resignation of Jose Peseiro last Month, hope they continue their fine run under caretaker coach and club icon Abdel-Aziz “Zizo” Abdel-Shafi.
Zizo led Ahly to get nine points from three matches following victories over Ismaily, Ittihad and ENPPI.
Winning Tuesday's match will be crucial for Ahly to extend the gap with Zamalek to seven points.
Ahly sit on top of the league table with 35 points, four ahead of Zamalek after 15 matches.
A victory over Zamalek could also pave the way for interim boss Zizo to remain in charge till the end of the season.
"The players are optimistic to achieve a positive result. I hope the match will be the right model of the Egyptian football derby," Ahly's football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz recently declared.
Ahly's midfielder Hossam Ashour has recovered from a foot injury and will be available for the match, while veteran striker Emad Meteb will be the only absentee for disciplinary reasons.
Zamalek will be missing suspended defender Mohamed Koffi and injured defensive midfielder Tarek Hamed.
Zambian striker Emmanuel Mayuka was omitted by Mido from the squad for technical reasons.
"The derby is important but it won't determine the tournament's champions," said Zamalek's head of football sector Ismail Youssef.
"Zamalek want to limit the gap with Ahly and keep the league's title. The technical staff has full confidence in the players and the moral of the team is very high," he added.
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