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CAFCL Preview: CR Belouizdad (ALG) vs. Zamalek (EGY)

While hated rivals Al Ahly fight for their fading CAF Champions League quarterfinal hopes on Friday, Zamalek also must win to remain in contention in Group D when the White Castle travels to Algiers for a matchup against Algerian champions CR Belouizdad. Zamalek won at home against Tunisia’s Espérance last weekend but still remain two points behind second placed CRB and five points behind group leaders Espérance. CRB won last weekend against last placed Al-Merrikh but confidence is not high in the camp of Le Chabab who need to perform well at home.

CRB’s league form indicated a potent attack but the Algerian champions have only managed two goals in their four Group D matches. Head coach Nabil Kouki focused his final training sessions for the match on the mental and psychological aspects to make sure his team can finish opportunities when they are presented. Belouizdad remain comfortably in front in Algeria’s Ligue 1 Professionnelle but the ultimate objective for Le Chabab and their supporters is to establish CRB as a member of Africa’s elite and a win against Zamalek will go a long way towards fulfilling their ambitions.

The focus of criticism for CRB’s attacking troubles tends to be Cameroonian striker Leonel Wamba but the finishing continues to be subpar from Wamba’s fellow attackers. Anayo Iwuala, on loan from fellow Group D side Espérance ST, brings plenty of speed but is failing to take advantage of the shots his dribbling creates as well as fellow quick forward Mohamed Belkhir. The CRB team is strong from the defense to the attack, however, and the team did defeat Zamalek in Cairo when the teams met on the opening day of the group stage.

The 2022-23 season began with high expectations for Zamalek after they conquered the Egyptian Premier League but the campaign is nothing short of a disaster currently. Zamalek are currently eleven points back of rivals Al Ahly in the domestic league table and are facing the possibility of being eliminated from the CAF Champions League at the group stage for the third consecutive season. While their league form continues to be poor, Jesualdo Ferreira’s side showed signs of a revival with their victory over Espérance and hope that positive momentum can earn them a result that keeps the club alive on the final day when they host Al-Merrikh.

Reports from Egyptian media indicate that Ferreira will stay with young goalkeeper Mohamed Sobhi between the posts after replacing Mohamed Awad for the last three matches. Ferreira focused on containing the speed of CRB’s attack in training and his defense is the most reliable unit in the team, further boosted by the return of Egypt national team central defender Mahmoud Hamdi “El Wensh” from a long-term injury on when he played the second half on Sunday against ENPPI in the league. The attack continues to be poor and Zamalek continue to rely on superstar Ahmed Sayed “Zizo”, who will need to provide both the goals and playmaking due to consistently poor performances from his fellow attackers.

Très faible engouement (L’Expression)
CRB : Belkhir, Iwuala, réveillez-vous ! (Competition.dz)

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