Preview: Zamalek hoping to maintain recent dominance over Tunisia's Esperance

Ahram Online , Friday 5 Mar 2021

Zamalek meet Tunisia's Esperance in Rades at 18:00 Cairo time (16:00 GMT) in their third Group D game of the African Champions League

Zamalek v Esperance
Zamalek eliminated Tunisia's Esperance from the Champions League quarters last season

Zamalek will be looking to get the better of Tunisia's Esperance once again as both sides meet in a vital African Champions League group-stage game on Saturday.

The White Knights proved far too strong to their traditional North African rivals last season, outplaying them in two crucial meetings.

They produced a devastating counter-attacking game to down Esperance 3-1 in the African Super Cup in February last year before knocking them out of the Champions League quarters in the same month with a 3-2 aggregate victory.

But Zamalek's recent form raises doubts over whether they can pull off a positive result against Esperance away from home.

The Cairo giants were held to two 0-0 draws by MC Alger and Senegal's Teungueth FC in Group D  despite dominating both games, having wasted a plethora of goal-scoring chances.

Their lack of cutting edge continued in the domestic league, which they lead before holders Ahly play their rescheduled games, as they failed to break down Wadi Degla in another goalless stalemate.

"I have the utmost confidence in the players [to turn things around]," Zamalek's interim chairman Emad Abdel-Aziz said.

"We are also confident in the abilities of [Portuguese coach] Jaime Pacheco and the entire coaching staff."

Four-time winners Esperance, who won two straight Champions League titles in 2018 and 2019, made a fine start to their group-stage campaign, collecting four points from a win over  Teungueth and a draw with MC Alger.

They lead the group after two games, enjoying a two-point advantage over Zamalek and MC Alger.

Esperance's right-back Hamdi Nagguez will come up against former team Zamalek, whom he suddenly left in December 2019 after growing increasingly frustrated with the club's failure to pay him his dues.

The cash-strapped Zamalek risk losing further players this year, with Moroccan winger Achraf Bencharki reportedly giving them a final ultimatum and influential Tunisian midfielder Ferjani Sassi, who will be a free agent in the summer, stalling on a new deal.

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