Preview: Do-or-die for Egypt’s Zamalek in Champions League

Ahram Online, Saturday 31 Aug 2013

Zamalek cannot afford any more African Champions League slip-ups as they host South Africa’s Orlando Pirates in the Red Sea resort of El-Gouna on Sunday

Zamalek in a must-win clash against Orlando Pirates (Photo: Ahram)

Zamalek, humiliated by Orlando Pirates two weeks ago, have no option but to avenge an embarrassing 4-1 defeat when they host the South African outfit on Sunday if they are to keep alive their hopes of reaching the African Champions League semifinal.

The success-starved Cairo side have only managed to collect a solitary point from their opening three Group A matches of Africa’s elite club competition, having been affected by the departure of some key players as well as coach Jorvan Vieira’s decision not to extend his contract due to the club’s mounting financial difficulties.

His successor, Helmi Toulan, has struggled to maintain the fine run Zamalek had enjoyed under the Brazilian. Their poor group-stage start saw them play out a dull 1-1 draw with Cairo rivals Ahly before slumping to a 1-0 loss at Congo’s AC Leopards.

Their defensive frailties were exposed in a largely one-sided affair against Orlando Pirates which left their hopes of booking a last-four berth in tatters. They are six points behind Ahly, who played a game more, and group leaders Pirates.

With only three matches remaining for Zamalek to bridge that gap, they will need to overcome a Pirates side which also humiliated Ahly with a 3-0 victory in the Red Sea resort of El-Gouna, which hosts the Egyptian duo’s games due to security concerns in Egypt.

A depleted Zamalek will have to do without two regular defenders in Ahmed Samir and Hani Said due to injury, giving Toulan a selection headache. Zamalek’s fragile defence has already leaked six goals in three matches.

“The absences might affect us against Orlando Pirates. It will be tough match,” Toulan, en ex-Zamalek player, said on the club’s official website.

“We only had a full-strength squad in the match against Ahly. However, we are used to that. We are eyeing all three points against Pirates.”

Pirates skipper Lucky Lekgwathi said he expects Zamalek to provide a far stiffer test than their previous game.

“They [Zamalek] have not been doing well but they know that a win for us on Sunday will definitely complicate things for them,” he said on the South African club’s website.

“I anticipate a totally different team from the one we beat in Johannesburg.”

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