CAIRO: The sudden departure of Mido and Amr Zaki could deal a fatal blow to Zamalek s hopes of finishing at least second in the Egyptian Premier League but they remain confident they can get over that.
The strike duo did not really impress in the first half of the season but they were still considered the players who could lift Zamalek out of their crisis and help them compete for honors.
However, when the English Premier League came calling, they could not reject its overtures.
Mido, the Middlesbrough-bound player who cut short his spell with boyhood club Zamalek, joined West Ham on loan until the end of the season while Zaki made a similar move to Hull City.
Zamalek s first test without them will be against ENPPI on Monday as the league resumes action following a long break, during which Egypt won an unprecedented third successive Nations Cup title.
Ahmed Gaafar and Sherif Ashraf will have to prove that they can fill the void left by Zaki and Mido, Zamalek football director Ibrahim Hassan told the club s official website.
We fully trust out players and their abilities. We can t afford to lose any points now.
Zamalek have notably improved under coach Hossam Hassan, Ibrahim s twin, before the break and will be looking to maintain their fine run.
They lie sixth in the table with 21 points from 15 games, ahead of seventh-placed ENPPI on goal difference.
ENPPI could rely on Egypt winger Ahmed Al-Muhammadi in annoying Zamalek s defense.
Al-Muhammadi produced impressive displays in the Nations Cup and was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Mido and Zaki, only to see ENPPI reject an offer for him from Sunderland.
Leaders Ahly, who are favorites to win a sixth consecutive league title, will be aiming to pick up where they left off before the break when they face Ghazl Mahalla away from home.
Mahalla always prove to be a stubborn opponent for Ahly, who will miss a host of key players through injury.
Their long list of injuries includes Egypt duo Emad Meteb and Sayed Moawad, Angola s Gilberto, Ahmed Shokri and long-term causalities Moataz Eno and Mohamed Abou-Treika.
Veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan, who was named the Nations Cup best player, will also miss the game due to suspension.
Masri s new coach Theo Buecker will be eyeing a winning debut when his side, who lie third from bottom, play Military Production.
Basement side Asyut Petroleum will look for their first league win this season when they meet Gouna, who are just two points ahead of the relegation zone.