Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (L) of Egypt's Zamalek fights for the ball with Mehdi Meriah of Tunisia?s Club Africain (Photo: Reuters)
Zamalek are preparing for life without one of their key and most consistent players, having loaned out Mohamed Abdel-Shafi after receiving a lucrative offer from Saudi giants Ahli Jeddah.
The 29-year-old will make a Zamalek appearance for the last time before the Saudi adventure when the Cairo giants, who are chasing their first Egyptian Premier League title since 2004, take on Dakhleya in their third league match on Wednesday.
The Egyptian international has established himself as an indispensible player at the White Knights since joining from Ghazl El-Mahalla in 2009, winning over the fans with a series of consistent displays down the left flank.
He put in a couple of eye-catching performances in Zamalek's first two league games this term, scoring a goal following a superb individual effort as the team opened their campaign with a 6-1 drubbing of Talae El-Geish.
Although coach Hossam Hassan said he did not give the club's board of directors the go-ahead to accept Ahli Jeddah's offer to sign Abdel-Shafi on a season-long loan, chairman Mortada Mansour said the $1.2 million bid was too good to turn down.
"We had to consider both, the club and the player's interests. We have several replacements for Abdel-Shafi as Saleh Moussa and Ahmed Samir can play in his position," said outspoken lawyer Mansour, who spent big to bolster an underachieving squad in the close season, signing more than a dozen players in a bid to turn around Zamalek's fortunes.
Zamalek, who were held to a 0-0 draw after wasting several clear-cut opportunities against Ittihad El-Shorta in their second leg game, are expected to face a stiff test against Dakhleya, who top the table with seven points from three games.
Zamalek looked profligate against El-Shorta despite boasting three new frontmen in Khaled Kamar, Abdoulaye Cisse and Bassem Morsi, with the trio squandering some easy chances either side of the interval.
In other matches, Ismaily will be looking to build on their 2-1 win over Gouna when they meet Petrojet while promoted Damanhour Athletics eye their first top-flight win against Maqassa.
Ismaily, the third most successful club in the league's history, made a stuttering start after being held to draws by Masry and Maqassa in their first two matches before recovering at the expense of Gouna.
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