Preview: Ahly-Zamalek unease hangs heavy over Cairo derby

Ahram Online , Sunday 23 Feb 2020

Ahly's forward Junior Ajayi (C) argues with with Zamalek's midfielder Ferjani Sassi (R) during the Egyptian Super Cup final football match between Ahly SC and Zamalek SC at Mohammed Bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi on February 20, 2020 AFP

Bitter Cairo rivals Ahly and Zamalek meet again in the space of four days on Monday amid rising tensions following a heated Egyptian Super Cup game on Thursday.

Zamalek prevailed 4-3 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in Abu Dhabi to clinch their fourth Super Cup title, but post-game reactions were dominated by a free-for-all that erupted after the game.

Ahly supporters accuse several Zamalek players, including winger Mahmoud Shikabala and left-back Abdallah Gomaa, of provoking them by celebrating the win in front of them.

Shikabala and Gomaa's rush towards the other end of the pitch sparked a melee, in which a handful of players were involved from both sides. The former was also caught making obscene gestures towards the Ahly contingent of supporters.

Consequently, the Egyptian Football Association's disciplinary committee handed out some tough punishments, banning Shikabala and Ahly's Mahmoud Kahraba, an ex-Zamalek winger, until the end of the season.

Gomaa was also hit with a three-match ban while Ahly's Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi and defender Yasser Ibrahim were suspended for two games.

Both Ahly and Zamalek said their boards would hold "urgent meetings" to respond to the sanctions, implying that they do not accept them. The simmering tensions clouded the build-up to another derby, which will take place behind closed doors.

League leaders Ahly, who enjoy a whopping 14-point advantage over Zamalek, have the title firmly in the bag, but would be looking for revenge against their perennial rivals.

Zamalek will be eyeing another morale-booster before they face Tunisia's Esperance in the African Champions League quarters later this month. Ahly also take on South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns in another mouthwatering clash in the last eight.

Ahly will miss key players because of the sanctions such as Ajayi and Yasser Ibrahim. Influential winger Ramadan Sobhi was also left out of their squad as he remains short on match fitness after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Zamalek, on the other hand, will have to do without Shikabala and Gomaa. Reports also suggest that French coach Patrice Carteron will rest other key players.

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