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Saturday, 15 May 2021

Preview: Zamalek facing mammoth task to keep hopes alive in Champions League

Zamalek have no option but to defeat MC Alger and Senegal's Teungueth in their remaining two matches and hope the Algerians lose to already-qualified Esperance in the final round

Ahram Online , Friday 2 Apr 2021
Zamalek v MC Alger
Zamalek failed to break down MC Alger in a 0-0 draw in February (file photo: Ahram)
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Egypt's Zamalek need everything to go their way if they are to avoid a surprise African Champions League elimination at the group stage as they meet MC Alger away from home in a make-or-break clash on Saturday.

A poor start to their Group D campaign, in which they only collected two points from four games, mean they have no option but to defeat MC Alger and Senegal's Teungueth in their remaining two matches and hope the Algerians lose to already-qualified Esperance in the final round.

Zamalek's early results were not a true reflection of how they fared under former coach Jaime Pacheco, whose side wasted a slew of goal-scoring chances against MC Alger, Teungueth and Tunisia's Esperance.

In their opening match against MC Alger, they settled for a 0-0 draw in Cairo despite dominating the entire game and bombarding the visitors' goal. In the absence of VAR in the group stage, they were also harshly denied what looked a clear a penalty in the second half.

Another goalless stalemate followed against Teungueth in a similar manner and a 3-1 loss to Esperance proved the last straw for Pacheco, who was dismissed as Zamalek sought to rescue their campaign.

However, Patrice Carteron's first match in charge after he returned to Zamalek for a second spell ended in dismal fashion, with the White Knights losing 1-0 to home to Esperance as their hopes of making the last eight were dealt a severe blow.

Zamalek are third with two points, five behind MC Alger and eight adrift of Esperance with two matches remaining.

"It's obvious that any result other than a win will eliminate us," Zamalek skipper Hazem Emam told a news conference ahead of the MC Alger clash.

"We were much better than our opponents at home but we wasted a lot of goal-scoring chances. We will try to make up for that tomorrow and win.

"We endured similar hard times in the Confederation Cup (in 2019) but we went on to win the title."

Zamalek's in-form defender Mohamed Abdel-Ghani is doubtful after picking up a knock, but the team welcome back veteran left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi following a seven-month injury layoff.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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