El Merreikh entertains their eternal rivals El Hilal in the Sudanese derby this Friday (13 July 2018), at the Merreikh stadium in Omdurman as the Elite division of the Sudanese Premier League enters its Day two matches.
It's the first derby of the current season, where it was played in a two groups system in its first round. The 18 clubs were divided into two groups of 9 teams each, and the top 4 teams of each group were promoted to the "Elite Division" which will be played in a round robin format to decide this season's champions.
Started in 1932, "Derby of the Two Niles" as it's recently called is one of the most famous African derbies. It's so called as El Merreikh and El Hilal grounds are adjacent where the Blue Nile and White Nile intersect in Omdurman, a part of the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Their grounds are just 300 meters apart in the Hay El Arda region.
Their first encounter of the current season is going to be a bit different. Merreikh coach is the Tunisian Yamen Zelfani, while Hilal has ex TP Mazembe coach Senegalese Lamine N'diaye as their tactician. It's the first time that the derby will be guided by all African coaches.
Both managers didn't have enough time for preparations as they both joined their sides last June. Zelfani had just two games with Merreikh, a 5-0 win against Eshraket Badro in Sudan Cup and a 0-1 defeat to Al Hilal Al Ubayyid in the Elite Division day one.
"Derby matches are unpredictable, but when you play at home you have to give 100% of your efforts and get a win", said the Tunisian tactician.
Zelfani (39) who previously had spells with Abha (Saudi Arabia) and Nouadhibou (Mauritania) added "In derbies every player wants to give his best. I had two derbies in Mauritania with Nouadhibou against ASC Snim, and won both. In such games you have to be focused and mentally strong. We need Merreikh supporters behind us in the game. We did our homework and forgot the defeat against Al Hilal Al Ubayyid, and now we're going for a win against El Hilal", he added.
Concerning their rivlas, Zelfani said "They have a good coach and I followed their past games. I know well his tactics and philosophy and we studied them well. But Merreikh is going to play their way".
On his side, Hilal coach N'diaye who played his career in France with Cannes and Mulhouse also had two games with the side he joined last month. After an unexpected defeat against Oud Hashim in Sudan Cup, he started his mission in the elite division with a 4-0 win over Merreik Al Fashir.
N'diaye who also coached Coton Sport de Garoua (Cameroon) and Maghreb Fez (Morocco) talked about the derby saying "I worked in many countries and had much more aggressive derbies. It's like life or death for the supporters, so it's always an emotional and important game".
The Senegalese coach guided TP Mazembe to CAF Champions League glory in 2010 before finishing the FIFA Club World Cup as runner ups later in UAE. "The derby against Merreikh comes few days before our CAF Confederation Cup match against Mozambique's UD Songo. So we will focus on the derby first, but we will also use it to prepare for our continental mission", he added.
Regarding Merreikh N'diaye said "I followed their match against Hilal Al Ubayyid, They lost but that doesn't mean they will play the same, on the contrary they will try to make amends. We will play to win and prove we deserve that".
Friday's game is number 43 between both sides since the inception of Sudan's Premier League in 1995. Their last meeting saw Hilal winning 2-0 last November. El Hilal won 21 games compared to Merreikh's 7 since then.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football