Two familiar foes from neighboring countries will engage when Egyptian Premier League leaders Al Ahly return to CAF Champions League action with a duel at Sudanese champions Al-Hilal in Omdurman on Saturday. Ahly arrive in Omdurman on the back of a fourth place finish at the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco where The Red Devils provided a firm challenge to European champions Real Madrid and Brazil’s Flamengo. Al-Hilal are determined to maximize their home advantage after falling to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in their Group B opener last week.
Ahly came just shy of upsetting Flamengo in the Club World Cup’s third place match last week but their efforts came at a bit of a cost. Experienced and technical midfielder Amr El Solia will be unable to go against Hilal due to a hamstring injury depriving Ahly of one of their better passers of the ball. Brazilian attacker Bruno Sávio continues to be unavailable after suffering an injury in mid-January. Ahly coach Marcel Koller expressed confidence in his team’s ability to adapt between different competitions and that the pressure of matches against the world’s best club will prepare his side well for Saturday.
Despite the aforementioned absences this Ahly team has plenty of depth and confidence. Hamdi Fathi and Aliou Dieng form a strong midfield core despite poor performances from Dieng against Real Madrid and Flamengo. Ahly forward Ahmed Abdelkader was among the best performers in Morocco and is poised to be a major threat to the Hilal defense while Taher Mohamed, Percy Tau, Afsha, Kahraba and Mohamed Sherif are also more than capable of providing goals.
Al-Hilal have been in good form under Florent Ibengé, a renowned coach in African football, since his hiring for the 2022-23 season. The Congolese tactician was given plenty of resources by the Sudanese champions to bring in his preferred talent and the squad has responded by currently leading the Sudanese Premier League. Unfortunately there will be no home supporters at the Al-Hilal Stadium on Saturday but Ibengé stated that his team is prepared to play for the victory.
Injuries were blamed by Ibengé for his team’s defeat in South Africa to Mamelodi Sundowns last week but there were positives from the match as Hilal stayed in contention despite dominance on the ball from their opponents. Ousmane Diouf, a star on Senegal’s 2022 African Nations Championship team, enjoyed a good debut in a difficult environment and should be more comfortable with his new teammates. Ibengé has plenty of skill to choose from in the midfield with Abdul Ajagun, David Abagna and Gerald Phiri Jr. all capable of creating opportunities for skilled attackers Mohamed Abdelrahman and Makabi Lilepo.
More on both teams is below.