This is the third time that two sides have been paired against each other in a continental club championship. Also, it is the second time as far as the CAF Champions League is concerned, with the other being the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup.
The two teams will face-off in the Group A opener on Friday, 12 May 2017 in a clash dubbed the “River Nile derby”. It will be the fifth meeting between the rivals at the continental level.
In 2009, the two clubs met for the first time in the history of the African Club Championship, also in Group A of the CAF Champions League. The other teams in the group were Kano Pillars of Nigeria and Zambia’s Zesco.
Hilal were bigger winners, amassing four points from the two games between the sworn rivals. The maiden meeting on 18 July 2009 at the El Merreikh Stadium ended barren. Hilal were 3-1 winners in the reverse on 11 September 2009, courtesy strikes from Malian-import Demba Barry, Omar Bakhit and Nigeria-born Efosa Eguakun whilst Badr Galag scored what turned out to be a consolation for Merreikh.
Hilal will go on to qualify for the semis on 10 points, one shy of leaders Kano Pillars, leaving Merreikh at the depth of the standings with just three points, which came from three draws. Hilal was guided by Brazilian, Jorge Campos, whilst Croat Rodion Gačanin led the Merreikh technical team.
Three years later, the rivals were yet again paired together, but this time in the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup. There was a third Sudanese club in Ahly Shendi, with the group completed by Angola’s Interclube.
Merreikh had the last laugh in the matches between the two sides, winning 3-2 at home and managing a barren draw at their rival’s fortress. However, the two teams qualified for the semis, before crashing out, Merreikh to eventual winners, AC Leopards of Congo whereas Djoliba of Mali was accountable for Hilal’s exit.
At the helm of Hilal was Franco-Italian Diego Gazritto, with Brazilian Heron Ricardo in charge at Merreikh.
Omdurman is eagerly looking forward to the fifth meeting the eternal rivals. Hilal captain Mudathir El Taieb “Careca” is the only player from amongst the current squad of both teams to have played in all four previous encounters.
“It is natural that Hilal is in the group stage of the CAF Champions League, because we have a good legacy in the competition. We will approach each match seriously from the start to finish.
“It's a derby in the CAF Champions League, and what matters to us is that there are things we want to achieve and we have an approach to deal with it,” said El Taieb nicknamed “Careca” after the famous ex-Brazilian midfielder.
Garzitto, was in charge of Hilal the last time the two sides met at the continual level in 2012. Five years down the lane, he is in his second stint with the Red and Yellow side of the city.
“The draw pitted us in the same group with Hilal, a team which we know well. We won against them in the last game on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the Student Support Fund 2-0 (on 3 April 2017).
“We are ready and have been preparing for this game to play better than the previous game. I’m hopeful of victory, which will brighten our chances of qualification to the next round.
“The situation has changed since 2012, in terms of players and the approach. I have 22 players and fighters and we will storm the El Hilal Stadium with victory in mind. I was the former coach of Hilal, but now I want my team, Merreikh, to be at the top in Sudan,” said garzitto.
Former winners, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia will welcome first timers, Ferroviario da Beira of Mozambique also on Friday in the Mediterranean resort city of Sousse in the other Group A Day One clash.0
12.05.2017 Sousse Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) vs Ferroviario da Beira (Mozambique)
12.05.2017 Omdurman El Hilal (Sudan) vs El Merreikh (Sudan)
12.05.2017 Alexandria Zamalek (Egypt) vs Caps United (Zimbabwe)
12.05.2017 Algiers USM Alger (Algeria) vs Ahly Tripoli (Libya)
13.05.2017 Pretoria Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) vs Saint George (Ethiopia)
12.05.2017 Tunis Esperance (Tunisia) vs AS Vita (DR Congo)
13.05.2017 Alexandria Al Ahly (Egypt) vs Zanaco (Zambia)
12.05.2017 Casablanca Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco) vs Coton Sport (Cameroon)