File photo of an Egyptian Premier League game between Zamalek and Ismaily (Ahram)
Zamalek are in two minds heading into the final match of the Egyptian Premier League season – fielding a full-strength side to secure second spot or playing with a weakened time to avoid any injuries before a crucial African Champions League clash.
The White Knights must beat Ismaily on Monday in the final round to ensure a second-place finish, which earns qualification for next season's African Champions League.
Should they fail to overcome Ismaily, they will be hoping third-placed Pyramids, who are one point behind them, do not beat Arab Contractors later this month. Champions Ahly secured the first Champions League ticket after winning the league with six rounds to spare last month.
But Zamalek also have another vital test in the Champions League that they are firmly focused on. They meet Morocco's Raja in the second leg of the semifinal in Cairo on Sunday.
They are aware they can hardly afford losing any of their key players before meeting Raja, but they can't also rest some of them and risk a costly stumble against Ismaily.
Coach Jaime Pacheco, under whom Zamalek won four games and drew once, did not give any hints over his team selection for the Ismaily game, but he is likely to stick to his ideal lineup.
The Portuguese has been given credit for instilling much-needed discipline and tightening a defence that looked porous when caretaker coach Tarek Yehia took over following the sudden departure of Frenchman Patrice Carteron last month.
Ismaily, who won the last of their three league titles in 2003, had a poor season, failing to challenge for African places after a series of poor results. They lie 11th in the 18-team table with 41 points.
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