-For the first time in their long history of derby games, Egypt’s perennial rivals meet behind closed doors at the Military Academy.
-Hosts Zamalek were only beaten once at home since making their debut in African competitions back in 1976.
-Ironically, the Whites’ sole defeat was against Ahli in 2005.
-It is the fifth Champions League clash between Zamalek and Ahli, who met before in the 2005 and 2008 Champions League.
-The Cairo giants met 10 times during the month of Ramadan, with Ahli recording five wins against Zamalek’s three, as two games ended in a 2-2 draw.
-Ahli duo Mohamed Abou-Treika and Emad Meteb are the joint all-time leading goalscorers in Cairo derby games with 10 goals apiece.
-Since joining Ahli in 2004, Mohamed Barakat has never been on the losing side in 17 games against Zamalek so far.
-The last time Hassan Shehata led a team against Ahli was in 2004 when The Master guided the then-second-division Arab Contractors to a shock Egypt Cup triumph at the Military Academy.
-The referee will be Kenyan Sylvester Kirwa, who was in Cairo only a month ago when he officiated Egypt’s World Cup qualifier with Mozambique.
Zamalek assistant coach Ismail Youssef
“There will be a surprise in Zamalek’s line-up and I hope it works.
Fans will be missed
“Morale is very high within the team and the players are well-motivated to get a win, but concentration throughout the whole game is key.”
Ahli coach Hossam Al-Badri
“Ahli against Zamalek games are the biggest dates on Egyptian football calendar no matter the time or the tournament and under any circumstances.
“Fans’ absence will definitely affect both teams’ performance, but it remains a big game despite being played behind closed doors.”
Zamalek have a host of players absent for various reasons, most notably striker Amr Zaki and defender Salah Soliman, who were both injured just a few days ago.
Center-half Hani Saied is another defender sidelined through suspension, meaning that midfielder Alexis Mendomo could start at the heart of defense.
Egypt Olympic duo Omar Gaber and Ahmed Al-Shennawi have failed to return from international duty on time and are set to miss out, while star midfielder Shikabala continues to serve a club ban.
On the contrary, Ahli have a clean bill of health with defense veteran Wael Gomaa returning from a long-term calf injury.
Dominique da Silva is available after suspension but manager Al-Badri decided to drop him and include teenager Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
ZAMALEK: After he was released by Ahli last year, Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan surely has a point to prove against his former club.
AHLI: The legendary Abou-Treika has always been the Reds’ wild card against their arch-rivals.