Zamalek vs. Al Ahly, on Sunday.
CL Semi-final first leg.
I'm not exactly in the mood to write a long preview
, so this one from fifa.com should do.
African Champions League
Egypt's big two meet in showdown
(FIFA.com) 23 Sep 2005
It has been billed as the biggest game in the history of the African Champions League. This Sunday's semi-final first leg clash between Zamalek and Al Ahly, the clubs who currently top CAF's ranking of African clubs, has attracted massive attention well beyond the teams' hometown of Cairo. Eyes and ears in Africa and the rest of the world will look and listen out as the Egyptian sides take their passionate domestic rivalry to the continental stage.
Egypt's big two in action two years ago. Zamalek striker Hossam Hassan (white) is pressured by Al Ahli defender Ramy Said during their Super Cup match in Cairo late 28 August 2003. Al Ahli won the game 3-1.
Their struggle for dominance in Africa's largest city is eternal. When the two clubs were founded in the early decades of the previous century, Ahly, which means national, were the team that embodied the rebellion against colonization. It earned them the title of "people's club" and brought huge popular support. Zamalek, meanwhile, were the team of the aristocratic class.
Throughout their history, they have met on 122 occasions with Ahly winning 45, Zamalek triumphing 35 times and the other 42 encounters ending as draws. Yet in African competitions they have clashed only once: in the 1994 CAF Super Cup in South Africa where Zamalek prevailed 1-0.
Zamalek go into the derby as heavy outsiders. Last season was the worst in the club's history. They won just one of their last 12 league matches, finishing sixth in the table and a mammoth 35 points behind runaway champions Ahly.
German coach Theo Bucker was summoned last May in an attempt to turn the tables around but despite guiding Zamalek to a joint-lead of Group B in the African Champions League with two games remaining, he was sacked after only 90 days in charge following a home draw in their first league match.
Zamalek defenders Mohamed Medhat (C) and Waiel El Kabane (L) in an African Champions League Group B match, 07 August 2005.
Records and crisis
The new man in charge, Farouk Gaafar, completed the job of qualifying for the semi-finals but lost the final group match 2-1 to Etoile Sahel of Tunisia to finish second. The match was marred by indiscipline with midfielder Ibrahim Saied and striker Gamal Hamza fined for their outbursts.
"These things happen in football," said assistant coach Gamal Abdel Hameed playing down the incident. "Yes it was a bad timing, but we are all professionals here and we know how to deal with such matters."
Gaafar also remained upbeat: "I cannot say that I'm 100% happy with our standard, but it is quite obvious that we are improving and that is a very positive sign."
Those rosy statements seemed to crumble on Tuesday though after a 5-0 hammering by Haras El Hedood. With Ghanaian midfielder Junior suspended and another dozen players on a yellow card, Zamalek will need to rediscover the form of yesteryear while holding their temper if they are to continue in the championship.
The longest run
Al Ahly, on the other hand, are continuing to re-write the record books. They ended last season unbeaten, winning 24 out of 26 league matches and collecting 74 out of a possible 78 points. Nicknamed The Red Devils, Ahly have been unbeaten over the last 15 months and, in all official competitions, have not lost in 46 games.
Gilberto (L) of Al Ahli club fights for the ball with Algerian player Farid Jahnin of Ettihad Al-Assima club during their African Champions League match in Cairo 22 April 2005. The two teams drew 2-2
Most credit for this phenomenal triumph must go to their Portuguese coach Manuel Jose.
"It is a golden era for our club, but it just makes our job more difficult because staying on top is always harder than getting there," Jose told FIFA.com. "Everyone is now eager to beat us because they want to conquer the champions."
Ahly have won their first 5 matches of the new season, but, two years into his job, Jose continues to show respect for his opponents.
"Zamalek are a big team and it would be insane to underestimate them," he said. "The players feel they've gone a long distance and don't want anything to obstruct their efforts.
"We play a positive brand of football: when we score, we want to score again and again. Our target is always clear, to win."
Because of ongoing work to the city's major stadiums in order to be ready for the African Cup of Nations early next year, the venue for the first leg match is likely to be one of Cairo's smaller grounds. A request from Zamalek to hold the game in the city of Ismailia - 100 km away from Cairo - has been refused so the derby, which usually attracts a capacity of more than 70,000, will be watched live by much fewer fans on Sunday.