For the third time this season football giants Al Ahly and Zamalek will face off in a much anticipated Cairo derby in which the victor will emerge as the Egyptian Cup winner.
Independent of any trophies, the Cairo derby usually turns into a mouth-watering clash that whets the appetite of Egyptian football fans.
With each team winning one of the league encounters this year, Monday’s game will be more of a tie-breaker, adding more value to the winner. Nevertheless, both the title holders and their arch-rivals have more than that motive driving them.
The league champions do not anticipate a blowing end to their terrific season, while the runners-up want to demonstrate their recent revival.
Three seasons without any piece of silverware for a team of Zamalek s caliber is nothing less than a football disaster, and perhaps losing the trophies to an arch rival is a little more stinging.
The white’s fans would love nothing more than to see their bitter rivals suffer a crushing end to a wonderful season at the hands of their team.
A victory for Al Ahly was expected in last season s cup final, which ended 3-0 for the Red Devils, and Zamalek s latest 2-0 league win was also inevitable given the circumstances of the game.
However, this time the two rivals look to be almost even in terms of winning chances, Zamalek are enjoying the recent rebirth of Henry Michel’s men, with midfield sensation Shikabala as the architect, and their fans surely have more ambitions than last year.
The atmosphere inside Zamalek’s dressing room has also witnessed more stability after top scorer Amr Zaki has finally pledged his future to the Cairo giants.
Perhaps the main setback for Zamalek is the absence of regular midfield duo Mohamed Aboul-Ella, who is suspended and the injured Tamer Abdul-Hamid, in addition to suspended defender Mahmoud Mahmoud.
Another absentee is the long term sidelined goalkeeper Abdul-Wahed Al-Sayed, whose absence usually alerts the white fans, but deputy keeper Mohamed Abdul-Monsef seems to have regained his form.So for Zamalek, a second win over Al Ahly this season, added to a Cup trophy, after a three-year drought, could bring stability to the club and make for a much-needed achievement.
Over the past two years, the African masters collected nine titles, maintaining a 100% record in the Egyptian league and cup, Super Cup and the African Champions League and Super Cup.
For Al Ahly, a win on Monday would complete an outstanding two-year domination for the 34-times cup champions.
Our motivation to win the next cup final is enormous, we won everything over the past couple of years and we could achieve that again if we beat Zamalek, Al Ahly defender Ahmed Al-Sayed said.
Al Ahly s latest league defeats against Zamalek and Ismaili were overshadowed by the absence of nine key players from the starting line-up, but this time the big guns are back.
Al Ahly s 2-0 win over Ismaili in the semi-final came only proved that there is no messing with the title holders and that coach Manuel Jose still has a lot up his sleeve.
But like Zamalek, Al Ahly s first-choice goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadari is not expected to feature, given the steady form of deputy guardian Amir Abdul-Hamid between the sticks.
In addition to Al-Hadari s absence, coach Jose axed midfielder Hassan Mostafa from the squad, as the 28-year-old looks to be out of favor of the Portuguese.
However, the two absentees should not alert the Al Ahly fans, who just want to see their favorite quartet Mohamed Abou-Treika, Mohamed Barakat, Flavio Amado and Emad Meteb ready to torment their opposition.
Monday’s game will be the first encounter between coaches Jose and Michel, with the first looking to establish his supremacy, just as he did against all of Zamalek’s coaches that he faces.
As for Michel, ending Jose’s winning run and giving Zamalek their first victory over Al Ahly in the Egyptian Cup since the final of 1959 will raise him to a status of a savior.