As they are targeting a historical season, Egyptian giants Zamalek travel to Morocco to tackle Hassania Agadir in the first leg of the 2018-19 Total CAF Confederation Cup quarter-finals.
After a slow start to their group stage campaign that saw them grabbing two points from possible nine in the first round of matches, Zamalek revived to record two victories and a draw, and finish Group D on top. That earned them a date with Hassania Agadir who finished Group A runners up to compatriots RS Berkane, to reach the last eight on the expense of also compatriots and title holders Raja Casablanca.
It will be Zamalek’s second encounter against a side from Morocco in this season’s second tier continental club competition. To reach the group stage Zamalek outclassed IR Tangier after holding them to an away barren draw, before finishing the job with a 3-1 victory in Cairo.
In general, Zamalek faced Moroccan sides in 15 CAF games before. The White Knights have the upper hand clearly, having won nine (9) games, drew four (4) and lost only twice, scoring 25 goals and conceding 12 in the process. While facing Hassania Agadir for the first time, Zamalek had a good memory in mind, with their last two CAF trophies coming on the expense of Moroccan sides. They defeated Casablanca giants Raja 1-0 on aggregate in the 2002 CAF Champions League final, before outclassing rivals Wydad 3-1 in the 2003 CAF Super Cup.
Just before departing to Morocco, Zamalek restored their domestic Egyptian Premier League top spot, defeating Smouha 1-0 to go two points clear of eternal rivals Al Ahly, with ten games to go. The White Knights are aiming to win the title they last won in 2015, but have to shift attention to the continental scene, where titles eluded them for 16 long years.
Zamalek are set to welcome back defender Mahmoud Alaa, who missed their last two league matches (the barren draw derby with Ahly before defeating Smouha) after grabbing a head injury during Egypt friendly 1-0 defeat to Nigeria last month. Despite being a central back, Alaa forced himself as the White Knights season top scorer till now.
Using his aerial ability in set pieces, and the precise penalty taking, Alaa scored 14 goals for Zamalek in all competitions this season, including a rare hattrick against Talaea Elgaish in the league. The ex-Harras Elhodood and Wadi Degla defender gained the reputation of the “scoring defender” that make him a regular threat for other opponents in almost every set piece.
The second leg is set next weekend in Cairo, with the aggregate winner facing either Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel or Sudan’s Hilal in the semifinal.