Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane’s call to forget about the dropped points at home against Baroka in a dramatic 2-2 stalemate was anything but a predictable response to a question about picking up the pieces ahead of yet another crucial encounter on Saturday.
“We are going to play a very decent team,” Mosimane said. “They definitely deserve to be in the Champions League, and everyone will get to see why when they come here. I couldn’t get a lot of footage on them, but we got bits here and there. They are a ball playing team, and the danger is that they come from a high altitude and you will know that they are runners, naturally, as a country.”
Mosimane, though disappointed with conceding a late penalty for Baroka to grab a crucial point on Wednesday night, doesn’t have much time to lament failure to take advantage of the fact that Wits were beaten 3-1 by bogey side Free State Stars at the same time in Bethlehem. A win for Sundowns would have propelled them to the summit.
In his mind, the Champions League, a competition in which they are the current holders, is a bigger fish.
“We deserved a point, if I am being honest,” he said of the result against Baroka. “This was our 60th game since June last year and we can’t be compared to other teams who have played around half that many matches.
"That is why we need to just move on and focus on the next match and refresh the team a little bit because there are tired legs out there. You don’t want to have a negative start to the group stages of the Champions League. We must win our home games.”
The added pressure for the Brazilians in their continental sojourn is the fact that they now probably have a target on their backs as the reigning champions. And Sundowns are in a tricky Group C, with AS Vita, a side they replaced in last year’s tournament after the Democratic Republic of Congo outfit were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player, and Esperance from Tunisia the other two teams.
“We want another star (the symbol of being African champions above the club emblem on the jersey) and we have seven Premier League titles, you can’t match that,” said Mosimane, in a remark seen to be hitting back at comparisons being made between Sundowns and Wits, who are still searching for their first ever league title, this season.
“We also have the Super Cup. That is what you need to compare.”
As much as Mosimane argued that Saint George are a threat and worthy of a Champions League spot this year, he said he was still likely to ring the changes, meaning players who haven’t seen much game time over the past several weeks like Sibusiso Vilakazi, Soumahoro Bangaly and a few others returning from injury will get to play.
Meanwhile, Mosimane was asked for his reaction to a scathing statement from Cape Town City chairman John Comitis, who was rebuking the Sundowns coach for allegedly trying to lure winger Aubrey Ngoma to Chloorkop by promising him “hypothetical millions”. Mosimane refused to be drawn into any discussions around that.