The game was highlighted by a venue dispute that needed a high level intervention. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) designated the Red Sea resort based El Gouna Stadium for the match; a decision both sides rejected at the beginning.
Whilst EFA stood by the decision, Zamalek complied, only for Ahly to launch an objection to the extent of threatening to boycott the game if the choice of El Gouna was maintained.
For security reasons, the Cairo derby is being held outside Egypt and yet again, behind closed doors.
The first round tie ended in a 1-1 draw with playmakers Ayman Hefny (Zamalek) and Waleed Suleiman (Ahly) scoring within three minutes of the opening half.
Zamalek need just a point to be crowned league champions for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. The White Knights are on 83 points, nine more than their eternal rivals with both sides having three games in hand. A draw will thus see Zamalek grabbing the title for the 12th time in their history, after eight successive triumphs by their bitterest rivals, who have amassed a record 37 league titles.
Ahly interim coach Fathy Mabrouk, has stressed his side is not going to the match to see their rivals celebrating.
“We are playing to win, and only to win”, Mabrouk told www.cafonline.com. “We are not going to be a part of their party. Let them celebrate any other day”, he added.
After a bad spell with Juan Carlos Garrido that saw Ahly dropping numerous points in their title defence, the Spaniard was axed and Mabrouk; who guided Ahly to last season’s league title despite in a caretaker role like this year, was given the mission once again.
His opposite number is Portuguese Jesualdo Ferreira, who wants to add a title abroad to his list of honours he achieved in his homeland.
“Yes, we need one point but we are going for the maximum. We have had an amazing season, and to cap it with a derby victory would be just amazing,” Ferreira said.
Ferreira is the fourth coach to guide the White Knights this season. They started with the legendary Hossam Hassan; he was axed and replaced by Portuguese Jaime Pacheco who left for a job in Saudi Arabia last January. Former defender, Mohamed Salah took will take up the mantle an interim capacity only for Ferreira to take full charge last February.
Zamalek has not tasted victory in the derby since 2007. In general, both sides have met 109 in the league, with Ahly winning 38 times to Zamalek’s 25 and 46 ending in stalemates.
In all competitions (including friendly matches), Ahly have won 94 times, Zamalek 53 and 71 of the 218 matches ended in a stalemate.
Serbian referee Milorad Mazic will direct affairs from the middle. The Cairo derby will kick off at 20H00 local time (18H00 GMT).