Mamelodi Sundowns out to secure top spot
Having started their group stage campaign with aplomb, where they’ve bagged 10 points, four clear of Wydad Casablanca, who are in second position, the Brazilians occupy the summit of their group on temporary basis.
However, while that feat was enough to send them through to the knockout stage of the African premier club competition with two games to spare, Sundowns will get a chance to cement their spot with a win over Angolans Petro de Luanda at Estádio 11 de Novembro tomorrow afternoon (3pm kick-off).
Securing the summit of the standings spot will decrease the pressure on Sundowns when they host Wydad in the final round of the group stage matches on Friday.
A top finish will also make sure that Sundowns are seeded during the knockout stage draw, where they’ll meet a runners-up from the other groups.
“It’s very important (that we win) because we don’t want to play Wydad here and looking for a win. When you manage competition, it’s a bit different. You can’t have the cake and eat it,” Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said.
“You’d wish to eliminate Wydad because you can meet them again. When we won the Champions League (in 2016), we had Zamalek in our group but we met them in the final. So, you don’t want the big boys around there (in the knockout stage).”
While the Moroccans, Wydad, are campaigning for the runners-up spot in the group, they are not home and dry yet, almost banking on Sundowns to do them a favour by beating the Angolans, who could still qualify for the knockout stage.
Petro are third in the group with two points, while a win over Sundowns and USM Alger, in the remaining matches, could send them through to the quarter-finals if Wydad lose their last two matches.
“Petro still has a life if they win their last two matches and Wydad doesn’t win (their last two matches against us and USM Alger).
"But trust me, in Casablanca, Wydad is going to wrap it up because they know that they can’t come here and say they are going to win because they’ve never won here,” Mosimane said.
“If they win (tomorrow against USM Alger), they’ll eliminate the Algerians and if we win, we’ll eliminate Petro. So, it can be an official friendly game at the end. But they’ll want us to win (tomorrow), because their threat in the group is only Petro. So, everybody has to do what they have to do for themselves.”
Meanwhile, Mosimane and Bidvest Wits’ striker Gift Motupa were crowned the best Absa Premiership Coach and Player of the Month for December, while Kaizer Chiefs’ striker Samir Nurkovic was awarded with the Absa Premiership Goal of the Month award, for his cleverly taken strike from the near post against Bloemfontein Celtic.@MihlaliBaleka