Maghreb power fueling Zamalek's quest

Zamalek

Few hours after celebrating their Egyptian Cup title for the concluded season, giants Zamalek travel to Dakar to take on Senegalee champions Generation Foot in a Round of 16 first leg clash the 2019-20 Total CAF Champions League first round first leg this weekend.

Five-times African champions, Zamalek, grabbed their 27th title in Egyptian version of the FA Cup last Sunday, defeating Pyramids 3-0 in the final in Alexandria. The victory serves as morale boast for the White Knights and their new Serbian coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic.

The Egyptian Cup victory was another proof on the importance of Zamalek's non-Egyptian players. With a trio of Moroccans - Khaled Boutaib, Achrab Bencharki and Mohamed Ounnajem, and a couple of Tunisians Ferjani Sassi and Hamdi Naguez in their ranks, the White Knights rely heavily on how these players perform.

Bencharki scored a brace in the Cup final, while Ounnajem and Naguez provided an assist each. Sassi is no doubt the midfield maestro in Zamalek’s lineup as he puts his touch on almost every attack for the Cairo giants. While Boutaib missed recent games through injury, the Moroccan international remains an important part of Zamalek’s attacking drive.

Bencharki and Ounnajem won the CAF Champions League title with home side Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco in 2017. The former moved to Saudi Arabia to join Riyadh giants Al Hilal, while Ounnajem reached yet another Champions League final with Wydad last season. The duo joined Zamalek this summer as the White Knights are targeting to rebuild their squad, aiming for the Holy Grail of African club football that has eluded them since 2002.

Sassi and Naguez played an influential role in Zamalek’s glory in last season’s CAF Confederation Cup. While recruiting almost ten new players and a new coach this summer, the Tunisians remains a key part of the White Knights backbone.

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The nearest Zamalek reached to touch the trophy they last won 17 years ago was in 2016, when they lost to eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa 3-1 on aggregate in the final. This year, they will hope their non-Egyptian playing base guides them to the long awaited sixth star.

The return leg takes place in Egypt a fortnight later with aggregate winner reaching the lucrative mini-league stage. The loser will be demoted to second tier CAF Confederation Cup’s playoff round.

Fixtures

14.09.2019 Alger JS Kabylie (Algeria) vs Horoya (Guinea)

14.09.2019 Malabo Cano Sport (Eq. Guinea) vs Al Ahly (Egypt)

14.09.2019 Thies Generation Foot (Senegal) vs Zamalek

14.09.2019 Luanda Petro (Angola) vs KCCA (Uganda)

14.09.2019 Victoria Cote d’Or (Seychelles) vs Sundowns (South Africa)

14.09.2019 Dar Yanga (Tanzania) vs Zesco (Zambia)

14.09.2019 Bulawayo FC Platinum (Zimbabwe) vs Songo (Mozambique)

14.09.2019 Lusaka Green Eagles (Zambia) vs Primeiro de Agosto (Angola)

15.09.2019 Lome ASCK (Togo) vs AS Vita (DR Congo)

15.09.2019 Aba Enyimba (Nigeria) vs El Hilal (Sudan)

15.09.2019 Blida USMA (Algeria) vs Gor Mahia (Kenya)

15.09.2019 Kumasi Kotoko (Ghana) vs Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia)

15.09.2019 Nouakchott Nouadhibou (Mauritania) vs Wydad (Morocco)

15.09.2019 Ndjamena Elect Sport (Chad) vs Esperance (Tunisia)

15.09.2019 Mahajanga Fosa (Madagascar) vs TP Mazembe (DR Congo)

*15.09.2019 Cairo El Nasr (Libya) vs Raja (Morocco)

*Match will be played in Cairo (Egypt)