EGYPTIAN football giants Zamalek are expecting a tough match against Zimbabwean champions Caps United when the two sides clash in an African Champions League Group B match in Alexandria on Friday night.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The match kicks off at 9pm local time.
Zamalek managing director Khalid Jalal was quoted stressing that the match against Caps would be a tough contest.
“The upcoming Caps United match will be very difficult, especially as it is our first match in the 16th round of the African championship,” Jalal said.
The five-time African champions also refuted reports suggesting some of their key players Stanley, Tarek Hamed and Maarouf Youssef would not take part in the match.
Jalal also said the team would be organised in a closed camp starting today in the city of Alexandria as the Egyptian giants seek to avoid distractions ahead of the big clash with Caps United.
Zamalek beat Arab Contractors 2-1 in a league match and their coach Augusto Inacio rested several key players for that match in preparation for the Friday contest with Caps.
“I had to rest some of the regulars because of Africa. Zamalek are a big club, must win every local and continental match,” Inacio said.
Caps United, who are scheduled to leave for Egypt this afternoon, have expressed confidence of coming back with a positive result.
Assistant coach Fungai “Tostao” Kwashi described Zamalek as a fast and highly-technical team.
“They [Zamalek] are a very good team. Five-time champions in Africa. They are very quick, very aggressive and it will be a tough game,” Kwashi said. “Like all Champions League games, they are like World Cup finals and it will not be easy. It should be realised that all these teams who qualified for the Champions League round of 16 are highly technical and good quality and we are not taking anything for granted. We respect them, but we are going to try and work hard for the fans and for Zimbabwe.”
This is the first time Caps United will be playing at this stage of the competition in their history after they defied odds to knock out fancied Democratic Republic of Congo side and five-time African champions TP Mazembe in the first round.
Their rivals Dynamos remain the standard bearers of Zimbabwean football after reaching the final of the prestigious tournament in 1998 under the guidance of Sunday Chidzambwa.
Caps United were drawn in Group B alongside Zamalek, USM Alger of Algeria and Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya. The Green Machine have been holding some of their training sessions in the evening under floodlights, as they will play the Zamalek match at night.
Coach Lloyd Chitembwe has got a full complement of players at his disposal, but he has chosen to leave out Leonard Tsipa, who has only just recovered from injury.
Caps will fancy their chances against a Zamalek side that has not been at their best this season where they have already lost seven matches.
But they will be wary of the experience the Egyptian side possess having gone all the way to the final last year where they lost to Sundowns.
Egypt striker Bassem Morsi, whose omission from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon was controversial, is one of the players that Caps United will have to watch out for.