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Preview: Wounded Zamalek seek solace in Egyptian league

Ahram Online , Wednesday 26 Oct 2016
Bassem Morsi of Egypt's Zamalek reacts after his team lost the CAF African Champions League (Reuters)

Zamalek, licking their wounds following their failure to win the coveted African Champions League, will be seeking solace in the Egyptian Premier League when they host in-form Smouha on Thursday.

The White Knights reached their first Champions League final since winning the last of their five titles in 2002 but lost to South Africa's Sundowns, who lifted the prestigious trophy for the first time on Sunday. 

Zamalek admitted the tie was effectively over they lost 3-0 in the first leg in Pretoria after paying the price for their defensive frailties. They could only win 1-0 in the return leg in Alexandria, thanks to a second-half goal from Nigerian forward Stanley Ohawuchi.

Outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour is not known for being patient but he opted to give novice coach Moemen Soliman, who led Zamalek to the Egypt Cup title at the expense of arch-rivals Ahly, a vote of confidence.

"I wanted to leave [following the Champions League final loss]. But the chairman wanted me to stay and I decided to continue my job," Soliman said.

Zamalek, the 2015 league champions, will be eyeing a second win in as many matches as they aim to wrestle the title back from Ahly, who made an impressive start to the season by winning five times and drawing once in their first six matches.

Ahly's fine run puts pressure on Zamalek, who will be keen to win their rescheduled matches to keep pace with their perennial rivals.

However, Smouha are likely to provide a stiff test for Zamalek after winning five of their first six games. Their winning run came to an end when they threw away their lead to lose 2-1 to Masry last week.

Zamalek will have to do without four key players after they picked up injuries against Sundowns.

Playmaker Ayman Hefni, winger Mahmoud Shikabala, versatile midfielder Maarouf Yussuf and central midfielder Tarek Hamed were all left out of Zamalek's squad for the Smouha game.

Zamalek opened their campaign with an easy 2-0 victory over promoted El-Nasr Taadeen last month.

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