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Preview: Egypt's Zamalek aim to get closer to first semi-final place in 11 years

Ahram Online , Saturday 16 Jul 2016
Zamalek defeated Enyimba 1-0 away from home in their opening Group B clash (Ahram)

Zamalek were given a boost by the disqualification of one of their challengers in the African Champions League Group B and they are aware a home win over South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday will put them on the verge of their first semi-final spot in 11 years.

Algeria's ES Setif were kicked out of the continent's premier club competition after crowd troubles ruined their opening game against Sundowns last month, and with Zamalek claiming a 1-0 victory away to Nigeria's Enyimba, the Egyptians' task of booking a last-four berth is not that difficult in a three-team group.

Zamalek last reached the semis in 2005 but a recent revival, which saw them win the Egyptian Premier League in 2015 for the first time in more than a decade, suggests they can challenge for the Champions League this time around.

They face a Sundowns side who atoned for the annulment of their win over Setif to defeat Enyimba 2-1 at home, leaving the Nigerians at the bottom with no points.

The match will take place at Cairo's Petrosport Stadium amid confusion over whether ordinary fans will be allowed to attend the game.

Outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour insisted only club members will be able to buy tickets, infuriating the team's die-hard supporters who vowed to defy his orders.

The match also comes after Zamalek failed to strike a permanent deal for winger Ahmed Hamoudi, who returned to Swiss side Basel after a one-year loan spell with the White Knights, and after Mahmoud Kahraba had joined Saudi Arabia's Ittihad on loan.

Both were part of five key attacking midfielders whose creativity was instrumental in helping Zamalek win the domestic double last year, although they could only finish as runners up behind champions Ahly in this season's league competition.

"We will not be affected by the departure of Hamoudi and Kahraba. I trust all my players and we already did well without them more than once," said coach Mohamed Helmi, under whom Zamalek have not been beaten in 12 matches since he took over following the sacking of Scottish boss Alex McLeish.

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane admitted his side's mission to get something from Cairo will not be easy.

"Typical North Africans, avoid set-pieces, they have big boys and they deliver the ball with proper technique. Against Setif it was the same, the corner-kicks were all perfect, the free-kicks were delivered into a good area," he was quoted as saying by South African media.

"We have got to be aware of that and stop making silly mistakes, avoid the corner-kicks we conceded against Enyimba because that brings more stress and pressure, but football wise they are similar to Setif.

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