Alex McLeish is aware there is still a lot of work to be done if Zamalek are to defend their Egyptian Premier League title, as the stuttering side cannot afford to drop any points when they face Arab Contractors in Sunday's game.
Ahly put pressure on defending champions Zamalek when they moved nine points clear at the top of the table with a 2-1 win over Maqassa on Saturday to enhance their chances of wrestling the title back from their perennial rivals.
Zamalek have no choice but to win to trim the gap back to six points and keep alive their hopes of winning a second straight title but there were little encouraging signs for new Scottish manager McLeish on his debut.
The White Knights were embarrassed in a 3-1 defeat by 10-man El-Entag El-Harby, committing many costly mistakes at the back and squandering several clear-cut opportunities to settle the game in their favour.
"I'm very shocked, I'm shocked to see the second-half performance from the players," McLeish told ON TV after the game.
"They got nervous after we had been dominating the game before. We had two great chances to take the lead, and we did not take them. I'm surprised that we lost these goals. I'm very surprised with the players in the back four."
Local reports said the former Rangers, Aston Villa, Birmingham and Scotland boss made his anger clear in the training sessions that followed the match, stressing that he would not tolerate any such deficiencies.
Zamalek welcome back 34-year-old left-back Hamada Tolba, who was sorely missed when he was absent against El-Entag due to suspension as his deputy, Adel Gomaa, was repeatedly exploited at the back.
Contractors are having a poor season as they lie fourth from bottom with 22 points, four ahead of the relegation zone.
"When I came I didn't say we will win the league but said we can win the league. We'll have to make improvements," McLeish said.
"We have to make many, many improvements. I have to do some work with my defence. I couldn't do everything in one week, but now we will be working with the defence."
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