Zamalek were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Saint George in Cairo(Photo: Ahmed Shehata)
Runaway leaders Zamalek face Ittihad El-Shorta in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday with an eye on a crucial African Champions League tie at Ethiopia's Saint George next month.
The Cairo club, who have made an impressive start to their league campaign, face the prospect of early Champions League elimination after being held to a surprise 1-1 draw at home to Saint George in the first leg of the competition's round of 16.
In stark contrast to their league displays, Zamalek appeared toothless against a Saint George side who caused them menace with their fast-paced counter attacks that resulted in a stunning opener in the second half.
Zamalek needed a late goal from Burkinabe striker Abdoulaye Cisse to salvage a draw but they will need to beat Saint George away from home or secure a high-scoring draw in the second leg if they are to reach the group stage and avoid an upset.
With a place in the league's decisive round almost guaranteed after Zamalek collected maximum 24 points from their first eight games in Group B, they will be treating the El-Shorta game as a warm-up for the vital return leg against Saint George.
"All the players are determined to make up for the result against Saint George and return to winning ways," Zamalek's versatile midfielder Omar Gaber said on the club's official website.
"The league games will be the ideal preparation for the second leg in Ethiopia," he added.
Zamalek will equal a club record for the best league start if they overcome El-Shorta.
They had set a record of nine wins in their first nine games during the 2003/04 season, which marked the last of their 11 league triumphs.
El-Shorta, who made a fine league start, lie third on 15 points, six behind second-placed Ismaily and nine adrift of Zamalek. The top two in Groups A and B will reach the final round, where a mini-league with only home fixtures will be held to determine the winner.
Zamalek will have veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan available for the El-Shorta game after he recovered from a hamstring injury.
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