Kaizer Chiefs or Al Ahly? Mamelodi Sundowns could face Pitso Mosimane in CAF Champions League
JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs. Orlando Pirates. Mamelodi Sundowns. The darlings of South African football have inspired even more affection now after becoming the first three representatives from the PSL to reach the quarter-finals of continental football in the same season.
After Sundowns became regulars in the Caf Champions League for the last six seasons, all hopes were pinned on them to be SA's flag bearers once again this season – despite the departure of Pitso Mosimane.
But the two Soweto giants, Chiefs and Pirates, rolled up their sleeves as well, ensuring that there will be three teams from the PSL when the quarter-final draw for the Champions League and Caf Confederation Cup is conducted at Caf headquarters in Cairo today.
Sundowns have stood head and shoulders above their compatriots after finishing at the summit of Group A. And that's why their opponent will come from the second-place finishers of other groups - Chiefs, MC Alger or defending champions Al Ahly.
Sundowns would fancy an all SA quarter-final clash against Chiefs, esxpecially as they would also see it as an opportunity to avenge their 2-1 defeat in the Premiership on Sunday. It was a shock result, considering that it ended the Brazilians' 21-game unbeaten run.
Sundowns started well and dominated proceedings as they grabbed the breakthrough after exploiting pockets of space in Chiefs' defence. But Chiefs turned the game on its head, finding the equaliser and winner in just five minutes after the 70th minute.
Then again, Sundowns might want to face Chiefs later in the competition, as a quarter-final against Al Ahly would give them a chance to get the better of their former coach Mosimane, who led Al Ahly to their ninth Champions League title last season in less than three months in charge.
Sundowns, who have managed four wins, one draw and one defeat in the Champions League this season, would want to prove just how much they have grown since the departure of Mosimane, who is reportedly being targeted for the Bafana Bafana job.
Chiefs have punched above their weight so far in the competition, given that they had also qualified for the group stage for the first time. Of course, facing familiar foes Sundowns seems a reasonable springboard for them to progress further.
But Gavin Hunt is an ambitious coach who would fancy testing himself against unfamiliar opposition like Esperance of Tunisia or Simba SC of Tanzania. After all, they did do fairly well against Petro de Luanda and Horoya Athletic Club in the group stage.
For Chiefs the Champions League also remains their only chance to win silverware this season, after struggling domestically.
Pirates, meanwhile, are searching for their second trophy of the campaign via the Confederation Cup after already winning the MTN8.
Pirates will host the first leg of their last eight tie, either against Algeria's JS Kabylie, Senegal's ASC Jaraaf or Raja Casablanca of Morocco. Pirates, moreover, are looking for redemption in the competition after losing to Etoile du Sahel in the 2015 final.