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We are here to avenge CL group-stage defeats to Sundowns: Zamalek boss

Zamalek coach says he had to cope with training two different teams ahead of the African final showdown

Omar Zaazou , Friday 14 Oct 2016
Moamen Soliman, coach of Egypt's El Zamalek. (Reuters)
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Zamalek boss Moemen Soliman enters Saturday's Champions League final first-leg at Mamelodi Sundowns eyeing revenge for his side's group-stage defeats by the South Africans, and stressing he had to cope with training two 'different teams' ahead of the African showdown.

Zamalek, who qualified for the semis after finishing second of Group B, succumbed to home and away defeats to Sundowns during the group-stage, where the Pretoria-based club prevailed 2-1 in Cairo and 1-0 at Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium.

Despite both defeats coming during ex-Zamalek manager Mohamed Helmi's tenure, Soliman—who replaced the former late in July—reiterated that he is here in Pretoria for revenge.

"I'm here to avenge Zamalek's loss to Sundowns in the group-stage," Soliman, an ex-Zamalek player during the 90's, said during the pre-match press conference on Friday.

"It was a bad thing to suffer both defeats, even though they came ahead of my appointment," he added.

The 42-year-old manager then lamented the fact he had to cope with two different teams, a problem imposed by Zamalek's restricted African squad and the Egypt call-up of eight players during the international break.

"During the past period, I had to cope with training two different teams, the players only registered in the African squad and the new-signings who are not," Soliman said.

"Plus the absence of players (registered in Africa) who were on international duty made it more difficult during those past two weeks," he added. 

"Being five-time African champion—as opposed to Sundowns who have yet to win the competition—does not give me an advantage at all. On the contrary, both sides have yet to win the title with this generation of players."

After offloading several squad members in the summer, Zamalek found themselves forced to make do with a limited roster in the Champions League.

The problem was exacerbated by the injuries of left-back Ali Fathi and playmaker Mohamed Ibrahim, which left the team with only four players on the bench against Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in the semis.

Zamalek made it to the African final for the first time since winning the title in 2002, after overcoming Wydad 6-5 on aggregate in the semis, while Sundowns similarly edged out Zambia's ZESCO United 3-2 in the penultimate stage.

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