Preview: Euphoric Zamalek seek to continue bid towards historic treble

Hatem Maher , Saturday 26 Sep 2015

Zamalek defeated Ahly 2-0 to win the Egypt Cup last Monday (Photo: Reuters)

Zamalek will be hoping to continue their bid towards a historic treble when they face Tunisia's Etoile Sahel in Sousse in the first leg of the African Confederation Cup semi final on Sunday, less than a week after they had ended a Cairo derby jinx in style.

The White Knights completed the domestic double last Monday when they defeated nemesis Ahly 2-0 in the Egypt Cup final to secure their first derby win since 2007 in a season to remember, having also pipped their foes to the Premier League title.

A hat-trick of major titles for Zamalek would be unprecedented and would make a perfect ending for a team that had struggled during the past decade until a major squad overhaul in the summer of 2014 made the difference.

Outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour has spent big again this summer to strengthen the squad further, bringing in the likes of Ahmed Hamoudi from Swiss side Basel on loan and Mahmoud Kahraba from Egyptian Premier League side ENPPI.

Kahraba in particular has quickly become a fan darling with a series of mesmerizing performances, with his trickery and pace earning him plaudits.

Zamalek finished on top of Group B with an Egyptian record of 15 points from six games while Etoile came second in Group A with 13 points, behind leaders Ahly on goal difference.

The only source of concern for Zamalek's board would be the presence of fans in Sunday's clash in Sousse after dozens of hardcore supporters attacked the players and Mansour during the 3-1 group-stage win over Sfaxien last month.

The die-hard fans, who are members of the ardent White Knights ultras group, are accusing Mansour of having a hand in a football tragedy last February which left over 20 Zamalek supporters dead following a stampede before the start of a league game at Cairo's Air Defence Stadium.

They are also still very angry that the players did not withdraw from the match. The players insisted they did not know there were any casualties.

Home matches involving Egyptian clubs are being played behind closed due to security concerns but authorities said fans would be permitted to attend the Confederation Cup semi-final and final should either Ahly or Zamalek or both advance.

"If the [Zamalek] fans who attend the game cause any troubles, Tunisia's security forces will firmly deal with them," Ahmed Mansour, the son of chairman Mortada and a board member, said on the club's official website.

"We do not recognize such groups and there is nothing called Ultras White Knights."

Zamalek have a fully fit squad after striker Bassem Morsi, who netted twice in the famous victory over Ahly, shook off a minor injury.

However, they will miss defensive midfielder Ibrahim Salah and versatile midfielder Ahmed Tawfik, who produced a superb display against Ahly as a right-back, after they were called up by Egypt's military national team.

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