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Friday, 14 May 2021

Preview: Zamalek eyeing revenge over depleted Ahly in Cairo derby

Fully-fit Zamalek face an Ahly side missing several regulars in the Egyptian Premier League on Sunday

Ahram Online , Saturday 17 Apr 2021
Cairo derby
Soccer Football - African Champions League Final - Zamalek v Al Ahly - Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - November 27, 2020 Zamalek's Mahmoud Alaa in action (Reuters)

Zamalek, still licking their wounds following a painful loss to Ahly in the African Champions League final last November, will have a chance to go some way towards erasing that memory as they meet their bitter foes in the Egyptian Premier League on Sunday.

The White Knights conceded a last-gasp goal to lose arguably the most important fixture pitting the perennial rivals, missing out on a Champions League trophy that has eluded them since 2002.

Ahly, by contrast, extended their Champions League record to nine triumphs in a memorable treble-winning season. They also reached the knockout phase this term while Zamalek suffered a surprise group-stage exit.

Zamalek's elimination left them with only the league as the major honour to fight for and they will be eager to underline their improvement under Patrice Carteron with a much-needed victory over Ahly.

Carteron was in charge during the previous Cairo derby in the league, in which Zamalek produced an efficient counter-attacking display to down eventual champions Ahly 3-1 in August last year.

The Frenchman then abruptly departed at a crucial stage of last season before returning to the club last month, replacing Portuguese Jaime Pacheco. He is likely to keep faith with his usual counter-attacking strategy as Zamalek look to make the most of Ahly's absences.

The Red Devils, who are targeting a sixth consecutive league crown, will be without several regulars, including key goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, who tested positive for COVID-19.

El-Shennawi's understudy Ali Lotfi has produced some shaky displays on the rare occasions in which he was given a chance to show his worth, leaving coach Pitso Mosimane with a selection worry.

The South African will also have to do without his regular full-backs Ali Maaloul and Mohamed Hani as well as central defender Yasser Ibrahim and Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi.

Ahly will have to play with a makeshift backline, with Moroccan Badr Benoun the only fit regular defender in their squad for the derby.  

On the other hand, Zamalek almost have a fully-fit squad to choose form, with versatile midfielder Emam Ashour and stand-in right-back Ahmed Eid the only absentees.

Both men are serving a 12-match ban for making offensive chants against Ahly following the end of a youth league game earlier this month.

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