File photo of an Egyptian Premier League game between Zamalek and Ismaily (Ahram)
Zamalek finally have Egyptian Premier League destiny in their own hands as they face Ismaily in a vital clash on Saturday, with a win likely to propel them closer to a first title in six years.
Ismaily were the ones who gave them an advantage in the league race, having held defending champions Ahly to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday.
Had Ahly won, they would have moved level on points with Zamalek and with a better head-to-head record, just five games before the end of the prolonged season.
However, Zamalek now top the table on 67 points, two clear of Ahly in one of the most exciting two-horse races in years.
Ismaily have always proven a tough opponent, with Zamalek needing a late goal from Tunisian midfielder Ferjani Sassi, who departed the club in the summer after his contract expired, to secure a hard-fought 2-1 win in the reverse league fixture in February.
Given the traditional warm relationship between the two sides, who are both fierce rivals to Ahly, Ismaily coach Ihab Galal had to rebuff murmurs of a possible match-fixing, saying his team would give their all as they always do.
Galal has turned around the fortunes of Ismaily, who flirted with relegation before his arrival, since he took charge in March. The club now lie 12th in the table on 34 points, seven clear of the danger zone.
Zamalek, who have not won the premier domestic competition since 2015, will have to do without key winger Achraf Bencharki as the Moroccan sits out due to automatic suspension.
Ismaily welcome back left-back Hussein El-Sayed.
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