The race for the 1.5 million dollar prize money and the ticket to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December, has reached its penultimate stage and both sides seek qualification to the final, where either South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns or Zambia's ZESCO United will be the opponents.
After ending the last four hoodoo, the Cairo-based giants are hoping to go all the way and win their sixth title. The last of their five titles dates back to 2002, defeating no side, but Wydad’s city rivals, Raja Club Athletic.
The long journey of the White Knights started defeats of Cameroonian side Union Douala and Algeria's MO Bejaia at the prelims. At the group stage, they finished second, behind Sundowns in a group reduced to three teams after Algeria's ES Setif were disqualified. The Egyptians amassed six points, three shy of leaders Sundowns, and three more than Nigeria's Enyimba.
“We have nothing in mind but to win on Friday, and in a convincing manner”, Zamalek coach Moamen Soliuman told CAFOnline.com.
Soliman, the Cairo giants’ third coach this term after compatriot Mohamed Helmy and Scotsman Alex McLeish, was given the job on interim basis last month after guiding the White Knights to the Egyptian Cup title at the expense of eternal rivals, Al Ahly.
“We are playing with a reduced squad; many players have exited and others are injured,” he added.
Zamalek enters Wydad game with only 17 available players including three goalkeepers. Midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim and full back Aly Fathy are both out due to injuries.
But Soliman is unperturbed and remains upbeat of his sides chances against Wydad, winners in 1992.
“We will give all it takes to win and reach the final. We're banking on our talented and experienced players, and the support of our devoted fans”, added Soliman, whose side will have the backing of 10,000 fans at the Borg El Erab Stadium in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Wydad on the other hand, eliminated Niger's AS Douanes, Madagascar's CNaPS Sport and reigning champions TP Mazembe of DR Congo on their way to the group stage, where they finished above ZESCO United of Zambia, Egypt’s Al Ahly and Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas.
Les Rouges et Blancs are counting on the huge experience of their Welsh tactician John Toshack, who previously won La Liga title with Spanish giants Real Madrid, alongside stints with Real Sociedad, Sporting Lisbon, Besiktas and the Wales national team.
The Moroccans last reached the final in 2011, losing to Tunisia's Esperance 1-0 on aggregate.
The second leg will take place on Saturday, 24 September 2016 in Rabat.