Zamalek defeated Ragaa 3-2 in their last Egyptian Premier League game (Photo: Ahram)
Zamalek will be looking to overtake ENPPI on the top when they face Masry at Ismailia Stadium on Saturday, having briefly climbed to the summit following a run of five straight wins under Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco.
After moving top of the table for the first time with a 2-0 victory over then-leaders Haras El-Hodoud nearly three weeks ago, Zamalek will be having another stern test – this time against Masry who are only one point off the Cairo giants.
Lying fourth of the league standings with 17 points, Port-Said club Masry will be eyeing a win over title-hopefuls Zamalek in a bid to become joint-top with ENPPI, who battered rock bottom Nasr 6-0 on Thursday.
The Zamalek management know well that a defeat to Masry might see the club struggle to reclaim first place, with their delayed game coming up against current leaders ENPPI, who only lost once this season.
Moreover, Zamalek will be looking for a morale-boosting win before facing bitter-rivals Ismaily away from home five days later.
The White Knights have appeared solid under Pacheco, especially at the back. They have only conceded three goals so far, the fewest among the Premier League teams, including two goals in their 3-2 win over lowly Ragaa in their previous match.
Return of key duo
Zamalek will be buoyed by the return of two vital key men against Masry, with attacking midfielder Ayman Hefni and anchor man Ibrahim Salah set to make their comeback from respective injuries.
Skillful playmaker Hefni, a regular for the White Knights since the start of the campaign, has finally recovered from a nagging hamstring problem which ruled him out of the last three league games.
Holding midfielder Salah is another indispensible member now cleared to play, having sustained an ankle sprain during Egypt's nightmarish African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.
Keeper Ahmed El-Shennawy may have wished to feature against his former club Masry, but an ankle injury – which he infamously aggravated after being fielded by Egypt against Senegal to cost his side a goal – could sideline him for a month.
Mohamed Abo-Gabal will most likely deputize for El-Shennawy, but the second-fiddle guardian's form is nowhere near his injured Egypt teammate after looking slightly shaky in last week's win over Ragaa.
Another integral member whose absence continues is Egypt right-back Hazem Emam who is out due to a pelvic injury, also aggravated playing for Egypt, as he is facing a 10-day layoff.
Otherwise, Zamalek have no major absences for the Masry clash, even though the team's ardent fans might still question the reason behind the omission of up-and-coming forward Mostafa Fathy - who proved vital in a handful of games last season.
Burkinabe striker Abdoulaye Cisse' also continues to miss out as he looks to have fallen down the pecking order under Pacheco.
Masry rely on Raouf
Masry, on the other hand, will be heavily relying on former Ahly and ENPPI striker Ahmed Raouf in finishing off their attacks as he scored six league goals so far this season.
Another important source of goals for Tarek Yehia's men is Malian center-back Issiaka Eliassou, who bagged a brace to give his side a 2-0 win over Zamalek three years ago.
Masry also boast three ex-Zamalek players in Ashour El-Adham, Mohamed Saied and right-back Ahmed Samir – with the latter released by the 11-time league champions last summer.
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