Zamalek meet Alexandria-based club Smouha on Thursday on the back of three straight wins, which took them six points clear of third-placed Pyramids FC in the race to obtain the last African Champions League qualifying spot.
But the team have started to show signs of fatigue, with influential Moroccan forward Achraf Bencharki suffering an injury while warming up before Zamalek’s 1-0 win over Talae El-Geish on Sunday and Tunisian midfielder Ferjani Sassi hurting his back in the first half.
Like he does in almost every game, canny French boss Carteron introduced a couple of youngsters in the latter stages, including promising striker Osama Faisal, who was on target in Zamalek’s impressive 3-1 Cairo derby win over runaway leaders Ahly last month.
While Zamalek can’t afford to be complacent with a second-place finish at stake, they still prioritize their African Champions League campaign.
They are scheduled to face Morocco’s Raja in the semi-final first leg on 25 September but reports suggest that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will postpone the last-four fixtures to October.
Any injuries to Zamalek’s key players could dent their chances of winning Africa’s blue-riband competition for the first time since 2002. Should they win the coveted title, they will qualify for next season’s Champions League even if they finish third in the domestic campaign.
Smouha, who lie sixth in the table with 32 points, have had a stuttering form of late, winning just once in their last five matches.
Zamalek will miss a number of regulars through injury, including full-backs Hazem Emam and Mohamed Abdel-Shafi as well as versatile midfielder Ahmed Sayed. Sassi is also out due to automatic suspension.
Read the original article onAhram Online