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Wednesday, 04 August 2021

Preview: Zamalek playing for pride in Cairo derby against Ahly

Saturday's Cairo derby between Ahly and Zamalek on the final day of the season takes place in Suez at 21:30 Cairo time (19:30 GMT)

Hatem Maher , Saturday 9 Jul 2016
Ahly defeated Zamalek 2-0 in the reverse league fixture last February (Reuters)

With nothing tangible to play for, Zamalek will be looking to boost their morale by securing their first Egyptian Premier League win over Ahly in nine years when they meet the newly-crowned champions on Saturday.

Zamalek were hoping to host Ahly at Cairo’s Petrosport Stadium, where they beat their nemesis 2-0 in the Egypt Cup final last year, but security officials moved the Cairo derby to Suez. All domestic matches also take place behind closed doors.

Last year's win allowed Zamalek to claim the derby bragging rights for the first time since 2007 to complete a rare domestic double but Ahly rallied back this season to wrestle the league title back from their rivals with two matches to spare for their ninth triumph in 10 seasons.

The year 2007 remains the last time Zamalek managed to defeat Ahly in the league when the Red Devils were undone after fielding some fringe players in their starting line-up, shortly after wrapping up a routine league title.

Since then, Zamalek have lost six derbies and drawn as many games in the premier domestic competition.

Zamalek, despite further strengthening their squad last summer, suffered the adverse effects of too many backroom reshuffles this term, playing with six different managers including two in caretaker roles as Ahly took full advantage to emerge victorious at the end.

This leaves the White Knights with the mere target of securing a consolation win on the final day of the season, hoping to capitalise on Ahly’s recent stuttering form which saw them lose their opening two group-stage games in the African Champions League.

“Zamalek are fully ready for Ahly and we target a win and this is the least we can present to our loyal fans," said Zamalek’s football director Ismaily Youssef.

Ahly have suffered a notable dip in form following the injuries which hit key players Abdallah El-Said, Ramadan Sobhi and Malick Evouna.

They are sorely missing the defence-splitting passes of playmaker El-Saied, the trickery of winger Sobhi and the blistering pace of Gabonese striker Malick Evouna.

El-Saied and Evouna have already been ruled out of the derby but Sobhi, who is heavily linked with a summer move to English Premier League side Stoke City, has been declared fit.

"The Zamalek game is a championship on its own. The technical staff is taking it very seriously. Winning would complete the league title celebrations," Ahly full-back Bassem Ali told the club's official website.

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