Zamalek hope new coach Jorvan Vieira can give them a new lease of life as they host TP Mazembe of the DR Congo in a must-win African Champions League clash in Cairo on Sunday.
The ailing Cairo giants must stage a remarkable comeback if they are to reach the semi-final of Africa’s premier club competition for the first time since 2005, having lost their opening three Group B games.
Their 1-0 defeat by bitter rivals Ahly sealed the fate of manager Hassan Shehata and Zamalek could not get any better under caretaker coach Ismail Youssef after committing dreadful defensive blunders in a 2-0 loss at Mazembe.
The White Knights, who lost to Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea in their opening group-stage game, are languishing at the bottom with no points. Chelsea and Mazembe have four points each, five behind runaway leaders Ahly.
Zamalek must beat Mazembe and hope Cairo foes Ahly overcome Chelsea on Sunday to keep alive their hopes of booking a last-four berth.
It remains to be seen whether new Brazilian boss Vieira, who took over at the club following the resignation of Hassan, can turn around the fortunes of the success-starved team, who are suffering from constant administrative and financial woes.
“Zamalek is a big team and has a long history in the continent. It’s a great honor for me to manage such a team,” Vieira, who famously steered Iraq to the 2007 Asian Cup triumph, said in an interview with CAFonline.com.
“Definitely getting back into contention will be very difficult after losing three games, but I am positive. I hope to find the appropriate support from the board, players, fans and media.”
Zamalek’s game against Mazembe will be played behind closed doors due to ongoing security concerns. Egyptian authorities have enforced a crowd ban since February’s infamous Port Said disaster, which left dozens dead and hundreds injured.
The team are struggling to make up for the departure of key duo Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’, who joined United Arab Emirates side Al-Wasl on loan, and striker Amr Zaki, who moved to Turkish side Elazıgspor.
They will also miss injured midfielder Nour El-Sayed and veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan who revealed his desire to leave the club after growing increasingly frustrated with their failure to fulfil their financial obligations towards him.
“A team is not made up of only one or two players. I don’t depend on a single player regardless of their skills and quality,” Vieira added.
“I admit the importance of having some key players, but my long experience taught me to concentrate on those available for the game only and not think of the absentees.”
“We have many talented players, but what’s important now is to regain the fighting spirit in the coming matches.”
A win for high-flying Ahly over Chelsea in Ghana will all but secure their place in the semis.
Looking formidable, the Red Devils turned on style to crush Chelsea 4-1 in Cairo and maintain their 100% percent start in the competition they won a record six times.
“We want to win to guarantee our progress to the semis, but the match will be difficult. Chelsea will play at home and they will surely try to make the most of that advantage,” said Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry, under whom the team have scored seven goals and conceded just two in three games.
Ahly will have to do without top marksman Emad Meteb, who was ruled out of the game due to a hamstring injury. Combative central defender Wael Gomaa and defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour will also miss the match through automatic suspension.
“Meteb is a very good striker, but we have alternatives,” added El-Badry, who replaced highly-successful manager Manuel Jose earlier this year.
The match will be played in Accra after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) turned down a request by Chelsea to host the game at their Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
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