JOHANNESBURG: Title-holders Al-Ahly of Egypt will face Sudanese sharpshooter Seifeldin Malik in the group stage of the CAF Champions League after the draw was made Friday in Cairo.
The record nine-time African champions were placed in Group A with Malik-inspired Al-Merrikh, V Club from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Simba of Tanzania.
Six rounds of mini-league matches featuring 16 clubs who survived the qualifying phase begin on Feb. 12 and finish on April 10 with group winners and runners-up advancing to the quarterfinals.
Malik was one of the standout players in qualifying, scoring five goals in four matches to share first place in the Golden Boot race with Firas Chaouat from CS
Sfaxien of Tunisia.
After scoring once against AS Otoho of Congo Brazzaville in a preliminary tie, the Sudanese netted all four goals when Merrikh eliminated two-time champions Enyimba of Nigeria.
An Al-Ahly team coached by South African Pitso Mosimane began a campaign they hope will lead to a record-extending 10th title by winning at home and away against AS SONIDEP of Niger.
Al-Ahly are among eight winners of the elite African club competition in the field and three — Esperance of Tunisia, Zamalek of Egypt and Mouloudia Alger of Algeria — are in Group D.
That section is completed by Teungueth, the Champions League newcomers from Senegal who stunned three-time champions Raja Casablanca in a last 32 clash.
Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa, the other first-time qualifiers for the group stage, are in Group C with twice title-holders Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Horoya of Guinea and Petro Atletico of Angola.
TP Mazembe of DR Congo and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, the only non-north African winners of the Champions League in the past 10 seasons, were placed in Group B.
Al-Hilal of Sudan and CR Belouizdad of Algeria, who won all four qualifiers with a 12-1 goal tally, complete the lineup in that section.