Preview: Euphoric Zamalek in another challenge against 'holders' Esperance in Champions League

Mohamad Mosselhi , Thursday 27 Feb 2020

Zamalek's Mahmoud Hamdi in action with Esperance Sportive de Tunis' Ibrahim Ouattara (Reuters)

A Euphoric Zamalek will be looking for a convincing win when they face Tunisian giants Esperance de Tunis in the first-leg of the champions League quarter finals at Cairo Stadium on Friday.  

The White Knights clinched two precious titles last week after winning the CAF Super Cup at the expense of Esperance de Tunis in Qatar before lifting the Egyptian Super Cup trophy five days later after defeating Ahly 4-3 on Penalties following a goalless draw in regular time.

In the CAF Super Cup, Zamalek, who were not favoured to win the game given the team's shaky performance in the domestic league and the strength of Esperance, were the winners of the last two editions of the Champions League.

However, the Confederation Cup winners claimed a convincing 3-1 win over Esperance after playing an excellent defensive game against a Tunisian side which were dominant in terms of possession but without real threat.

On Friday, Zamalek will be eyeing another win to make the club's mission easier in the second leg set to be played in Tunisia one week later.

"The game will not be easy. We will face the winners of the last two editions of the champions league," Zamalek coach Patrice Carteron told the pre-match news conference on Wednesday.

"Our two titles will have a good impact in our players' morale."

The Frenchman slammed his side's busy calendar, adding that the succession of games was the reason behind the players' fatigue and injuries.

Forward Youssef 'Obama' Ibrahim will not be available for Friday's game due a knee injury, and the team's medical staff is trying to prepare him for the second leg.

"Our calendar is so busy. It is huge pressure for the players, both physically and mentally," Carteron added.

According to the French coach, Obama's absence will urge him to change the team's strategy during the game given the vital role of the 24-year-old, who scored two goals and provided eight assists in 22 games so far.

Meanwhile, the Tunisian side will seek revenge for their CAF Super Cup loss and to advance in the competition as the club is bidding for a third straight Champions League title.

Many defensive lapses appeared in the Tunisian side's defence, allowing Zamalek players to score three times despite Esperance's domination in terms of possession, but the team's technical staff stressed that they have learned the lesson.

"Friday's game will be different from that of the CAF Super Cup," Esperance assistant coach Magdi Traore told the news conference on Thursday.      

"We committed a big number of mistakes in the Super Cup. Zamalek scored an early goal that influenced the rest of the game, and we've learned the lesson. We will concentrate during the game from the first minute."

"Our target is to realise a positive result in Cairo before the second leg at home."

"We Know that our mission will not be easy against a big team like Zamalek, but we are also a big team. We are the defending champions," Traore concluded.

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