Mamelodi Sundowns will work hard to regain ‘aura of invincibility’ in CAF Champions League

Mamelodi Sundowns will want to get back to winning ways. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns will want to get back to winning ways. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Apr 21, 2023


Johannesburg - The team that recently looked unstoppable on the domestic front have seemingly forgotten how to win.

The aura of invincibility that Mamelodi Sundowns wore with pride just last month has gone, the Brazilians and victory suddenly resembling the parallel lines of a railway – destined never to meet.

And now, instead of the earlier confident talk of a second continental title, those associated with the multiple South African champions are speaking in hushed tones about the chances of their club reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.

With good reason too, for why would they be confident of such success when their team has just been knocked out of the Nedbank Cup they’d been hoping to defend?

That wouldn’t be so bad had that defeat been but just a bump on an otherwise smooth ride in recent times but the 2-1 loss to Stellenbosch FC last weekend came on the back of three successive draws in the Premiership.

Granted, Sundowns had already won the league by then, and perhaps therein could be the reason for their recent slump – having little to play for after being crowned league champions for the sixth season running.

They have the opportunity to get back to winning ways this weekend in Algiers, where they take on Algerian outfit Chabab Belouizdad in a quarter-final first leg.

When the draw was made, it was generally agreed that the Brazilians got a fair draw and were favourites to make the semi-finals.

After all, they had previously hammered the Algerians 5-1 in a Group B clash of the 2021 Champions League campaign.

When Belouizdad beat them 2-0 in Pretoria in the second leg, Sundowns had long secured qualification for the knockout phase and thus much cannot be read into that result.

Granted, north African sides are solid outfits that are hard to beat, and with their current slump, many would not bet on Sundowns returning from Algiers victorious.

But with the second leg still to come, the Brazilians need only strive to secure a draw at the Nelson Mandela Stadium or, at worst, avoid defeat by more than one goal while doing their best to get an away goal.

Achieve that and you can bet they will return to their old confident self and be able to host their adversaries next weekend at Loftus Versfeld believing they can smash five past Belouizdad just as they did to Al Ahly prior to this slump.

Coach Rhulani Mokwena has done well to acknowledge that they need to get out of their slumber and he has taken the responsibility of their poor form as a leader of the troops.

He would have no doubt spent the week building up to tomorrow’s 9pm clash working on his players’ psyche and reminding them of just how good they are and you bet he will find a way to use the fact that they are playing at a stadium named after our country’s former president in his pre-match team talk.

Get that right and the Brazilians should be back to their best, winning matches like the juggernaut that swept all before them en route to retaining their domestic title, while convincing all and sundry that they have what it takes to add a second star above their club crest.