Preview: Zamalek eye victory in CL group-stage opener against Zimbabwe's CAPS

Omar Zaazou , Thursday 11 May 2017

In a group also comprising Algeria's ASM Alger and Libya's Al-Ahly Tripoli, Zamalek will be looking for a win in the last-16 opener

Zamalek players (Al-Ahram)
Zamalek players (Al-Ahram)

Zamalek will be looking to make an auspicious start to their CAF Champions League group-stage campaign when they host Zimbabwean side CAPS United at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Friday.

After formally losing the league title this season, Champions League runners-up Zamalek will be setting their eyes on Africa's premier competition this time around.

Zamalek qualified for the group stage after beating Nigeria's Enugu Rangers 5-3 on aggregate, a 4-1 first-leg home winthat was followed by a somewhat nervy 2-1 defeat in Nigeria.

But that was under the management of former boss Mohamed Helmi, whose Zamalek side did not look at their best defensively, lacking the requisite organization at the back.

The result was some poor league results that eventually condemned Zamalek to third place, as they will now be looking to make amends on the African front under manager Augusto Inacio.

 In a defensive sense, Zamalek improved notably under Inacio – with the Cairo giants only conceding once in five league games since the Portuguese manager's debut 2-0 defeat to Enppi.

His side, however, looked to be lacking the cutting edge upfront, with their attacking problems particularly on display in goalless draws with minnows Tanta and Ismaily.

Despite finally managing to beat Arab Contractors 2-1 in their last league game, Zamalek conceded an embarrassing goal that kept the team's fans a bit worried ahead of their African clash.

CAPS intent 'to make history again'

CAPS, on the other side, were keen to stress that they are not going to be the outsiders of group B – which also includes Algeria's USM Alger alongside Al-Ahli Tripoli.

The Zimbabwean league champions sprang a surprise in the tournament's round of 32 when they eliminated five-time African champions TP Mazembe on the away-goal rule.

CAPS forward Abbas Amidu, who scored the crucial away goal in the 1-1 draw with Mazembe away from home, stated that his side are intent to make history again against Zamalek after ousting the Congolese giants the previous round.

"We are ready for Zamalek, we are fully-prepared for this game," Amidu told Egyptian sports website

"We are here to make history again this time against Zamalek after doing the same against TP Mazembe.

"Football has changed much these days. We beat Mazembe and could also beat Zamalek."

Zamalek enter the game with no absences of major concern, with right-back Hosni Fathi the only injury absentee as Osama Ibrahim will be deputizing for him.

Manager Inacio, however, opted to leave out talented playmaker Ayman Hefni from the squad, probably due to his lack of form.

Striker Hossam Salama, who had been consistently omitted, has been included in the squad alongside Bassem Morsi, Stanley Ohawuchi and Emmanuel Mayuka, as it remains to be seen whether the former would be given a chance to impress.

The game will be played in the presence of a limited number of 5000 fans and not behind closed doors, as the case has usually been with African games.              

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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