It's been long since Egyptian giants Zamalek tasted continental glory. The last of their five CAF Champions League titles dates back to 2002. This year the “White Knights” will be seeking to add to their trophy haul in the premier continental club championship, and their title takes off in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, against two-time winners, Enyimba.
The Cairo-based side’s last appearance at the pool stage was in 2014, failing to reach the knockout stage in a group that included DR Congo duo, TP Mazembe and AS Vita, and El Hilal of Sudan. Last year, they were involved in the second tier CAF Confederation Cup, reaching the semi-finals before bowing to eventual champions Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia 5-4 on aggregate.
In a season that has witnessed no less than four different coaches, Zamalek are starting the mini-league stage with an indigene at the helm.
Portuguese Jesualdo Ferreira began the season as Zamalek coach, before being axed after a couple of matches with ex-Zamalek forward Ahmed "Mido" Hossam replacing him. Mido made way for Brazilian Marcos Paqueta, before Scottish Alex Mclesih was handed the job last February. But two months was all about the Scot’s tenure with ex-midfielder Mohamed Helmy succeeding him on an interim basis till end of the season.
“We respect all our opponents, but we fear no one”, Helmy told CAFonline.com.
A former Zamalek player who won CAF Champions League twice in 1984 and 1986, Helmy knows well what the continent's premier club competition means to the fans.
“It's been so long since we won an African trophy. This generation of players can bring back the CAF Champions League to the club", he added.
“We know Enyimba is a very good side with a huge continental history. Every game at this stage is difficult and we respect all the teams. Sometimes it's healthy to feel worried, but not fearful. We will do our best in Nigeria", concluded Helmy.
Zamalek are heading to Port Harcourt, Nigeria with a near full squad. Talented playmaker Ayman Hefny and midfielder Ahmed Tawfik have recovered from recent injuries. The only missing star will be Ahmed Haimoudi, on loan from Swiss side FC Basel, whilst right back Omar Gaber has joined the Swiss side.
Enyimba entertains Zamalek at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt with the kickoff scheduled at 16:00 local time (15:00 GMT) on Sunday 19 June 2016. Algeria's ES Setif and South Africa's Mamelodi Sundown's complete the Group B pool, and lock horns in Setif 24 hours earlier.
Group A 18.06.2016 Zesco United (Zambia) vs Al Ahly (Egypt) 18.06.2016 ASEC Mimosas (Cote d’Ivoire) vs Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco)
Group B 18.06.2016 ES Setif (Algeria) vs Mamelodi Sundowns (Algeria) 19.06.2016 Enyimba (Nigeria) vs Zamalek (Eg