The biggest game on Egyptian football calendar switches to the African stage as Zamalek entertains their bitter rivals Al Ahly this Sunday at the Military Academy Stadium. The clash is on Day 2 of the 2012 Orange CAF Champions League Group B, and Zamalek assistant manager Ismail Youssef sees it as a must win for his team after they lost their first game against Ghanaian Berekum Chelsea. Youssef spoke to Cafonline.com before the crucial game.
Cafonline.com: How do you see this coming game against Al Ahly
Youssef: Zamalek against Ahly is a derby, and Derby games can not be easily predicted. The game is very tough for both teams, especially for Zamalek who can’t afford to lose more points or else our situation is going to be more complicated regarding qualification to the semi final.
Cafonline.com: What went wrong for Zamalek against Berekum Chelsea and how do you see your team’s chances in this group
Youssef: Berekum Chelsea was the first competitive game for us in a long period and our players were not physically and mentally fully fit so we lost in the dying seconds. We committed some defensive errors but we have worked on that in the past days and I believe the players learnt their lesson well. There are still five games and 15 points to be played for and so our chances are still strong.
Cafonline.com: How do you see your opponents Al Ahly and their manager El Badry?
Youssef: I respect all Ahly players as they are all well experienced international players. But that doesn’t mean we’re feeling afraid of them, on the contrary we’ll play to win. Houssam El Badry is a very good manager and I believe he’s not different from his predecessor Manuel Jose, both are talented coaches. But the final word will be the players’ and how they’ll respond to instructions from their respective coaches.
Cafonline.com: Tell us about injuries and absentees situation in your team?
Youssef: We’re waiting a physical test for injured defenders Mahmoud Fathalla and Salah Suleiman. There’s also striker Amr Zaki whose chances are slim to play the game, but we’ll keep believing he can make it. Defender Hany Said is suspended and will miss the game, and we’re waiting for the U-23 pair of Ahmed El Shennawy and Omar Gaber to join the camp.
Cafonline.com: Fathalla and Suleiman injured, Said suspended and they are all defenders. Is that a sort of a defensive crisis for you?
Youssef: We hope Fathalla and Suleiman will be fit for the match. We recently signed Hamada Tolba on loan and he’s a good defender. He’s ready for the match and could be used then.
Cafonline.com: What impact do think an absence of fans will have on the game?
Youssef: The absence of the fans will affect both teams the same. We were hoping this game would be the one when the fans return to the stands but the circumstances aren’t suitable yet. Definitely we will be affected negatively with the supporters’ absence especially in the coming games, as our opponents TP Mazembe and Berekum Chelsea enjoy the advantage of their fans’ support.