Ahly, Zamalek in classic showdown

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CAIRO: Rivals Al Ahly and Zamalek clash on Saturday in the traditional Egyptian derby, the last major event of a busy year for African football. The derby is expected to bring a capacity 70,000 crowd to the Cairo International stadium, but the 128th meeting between the two Cairo clubs comes at a time of contrasting fortunes. Al Ahly, the reigning African champions, were given a massive welcome by thousands of supporters earlier this month after finishing third at the Club World Cup in Japan. They are also unbeaten in domestic competition for almost 30 months. Zamalek, whose record of five African Champions League titles was matched by Al Ahly in October, have been battling to stay competitive while their rivals march on. They finished second last season to Al Ahly in the Egyptian premier league, but were a massive 24 points behind. A run of poor form saw Zamalek fire Portuguese coach Manuel Cajuda in mid-December and appoint former France manager Henri Michel in his place earlier this week. But Michel, who has previously worked in five African countries, is spared a daunting debut, with interim coach Mahmoud Saad taking charge of the side before handing over the reigns. Saad will bring back to Egypt international Ibrahim Said in defense for the derby after the former coach suspended him for indiscipline. Al Ahly go into the match in top position in the league standings with a six-point lead over third placed Zamalek, who have played a game more.

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