Reaching the next round of the African Champions League is a priority for Zamalek rather than ending the group stage as group leaders, according to coach Patrice Carteron who also insisted his team aren't out of the Egyptian league title race.
Moroccan forward Achraf Bencharki scored an early goal and provided a late assist as Zamalek downed Zambia's Zesco United 2-0 in Cairo to move joint top of their African Champions League group on Friday.
"I am happy with both the performance and result against Zesco. Our performance is better than the last round especially after resting our key players in the last league match against Tanta," the French tactician Carteron said at the press conference held after the match.
"It is early to speak about ending the group stage as group leaders. The most important thing is to ensure qualification for the next round first.
"All Champions League matches are difficult, whether we face group leaders or runner-ups in the next round," he added.
The Whites boosted their chances of reaching the quarters with two matches remaining in Group A, as they currently have seven points from four matches, on level with DR Congo's TP Mazembe, who play against Angola's Primeiro de Agosto (two points) on Saturday. Zesco lie at the bottom with only two points.
"Our main target is always to win all matches, but we play every four days and so rotating our squad is a must," Carteron explained.
League hopes still alive
On the domestic level, Zamalek currently lie third at the Egyptian league table with 21 points from 11 matches, nine points behind champions Ahly who played 10 matches so far.
Despite this gap, Zamalek's chances to compete for the league title are equal from those of arch rivals Ahly, according to Carteron.
"The performance is improving as we managed to score a goal or two in every game of the recent matches, unlike wasting 20 scoring chances against Smouha and El-Entag El-Harbi earlier in the season," said the former Ahly and Wadi Degla coach.
"The players are working hard in their training and they all deserve a chance to play.
"Sure, we are still competing with Ahly for the title," he concluded.
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