Preview: Zamalek out to take Egyptian league top spot from Hodoud

Omar Zaazou , Tuesday 4 Nov 2014

Zamalek hoping for a third straight league victory which would see them move to the top of the Egyptian Premier League table

(Photo: Al-Ahram)

Zamalek will be hoping to overtake the Egyptian Premier League top spot from leaders Haras El-Hodoud when they clash at the Air Defence Stadium on Wednesday.

With only two points separating them, fourth-placed Zamalek could well dislodge Hodoud from the summit should the Cairo side march to their third straight home victory in the league.

Alexandria-based Hodoud enter the game on the back of a 2-0 home loss to last season's runners-up Smouha, who inflicted on their city rivals their first defeat of the season.

And bearing in mind that a second consecutive loss would see them surrender the lead of the table, Hodoud will be keen to cement their position at the top of the table.

Two-time Egypt Cup winners Hodoud have the qualities that make them aspire for a win, with their attacking department boasting a host of decent forwards, including Ahmed Hassan Mekki, Vincent Die Foneye and Ahmed Sabry.  

However, Ivorian striker Die Foneye, who managed to find the net several times against Ahly and Zamalek during his ENNPI spell, will take no part in the game after being omitted by manager Abdel-Hamid Bassiouny.

This means the military side will be mainly relying on top-scorer Mekki to round off their attacks, having scored four league goals so far this season.

Marauding midfielder Sabry is another interesting player to watch, with his trickery and close control having caught the eye of Zamalek, who wished to sign him in the close season.

Hefni, Cisse absent for Zamalek

Zamalek, on the other hand, were relieved to have in-form goalie Ahmed El-Shennawy and key defender Mohamed Koffi fit in time after being initially doubtful for the game.

Having sustained a thigh injury in the 1-0 away win against Ittihad last week, Egypt keeper El-Shennawy was not truly certain to retain his place between the posts against Hodoud before taking part in full training days later.

Ivorian defender Koffi, arguably Zamalek's most consistent player this season, was also doubtful after complaining of a hamstring problem following the win at Ittihad – but he is now cleared to play.

Midfielder Moemen Zakareya, who bagged two late goals in Zamalek's last two wins, was also another injury concern who eventually managed to make the squad.

But Zamalek will have to do without flamboyant playmaker Ayman Hefni, who missed out the narrow win at Ittihad through suspension, due to a hamstring problem.

Despite making the squad against Ittihad, Burkinabe striker Abdoulaye Cisse has missed out again – with manager Jaime Pacheco apparently unsatisfied with his performance of late.

Gaber 'Ultras' saga

Apart from players snubbed due to injury and technical reasons, right-back Omar Gaber has been shunned for off-field causes.

Gaber, who has been at odds with the club's board of late, released press statements in which he indicated he 'belongs' to Zamalek's ardent fan firm Ultras White Knights.

The Ultras in particular has not been enjoying a good relationship with Zamalek chief Mortada Mansour, who has called on authorities to declare the group a 'terrorist organisation' on several occasions.

Among numerous incidents involving both parties, the latest saw the fanatic fan group claim responsibility after unknown assailants hurled a bag of urine at Mansour – an act that was described as an 'acid attack' by the 62-year-old.

Gaber as a result was snubbed to make way for out-of-favour striker Ahmed Ali in the squad, and a heavy fine awaits the 22-year-old defender.

Eleven-time Egyptian champions Zamalek have 12 points from six games, while Hodoud are top of the table after seven matches.

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