Pitso and Mamelodi Sundowns won't be backing down
In true Mosimane fashion, the former Bafana Bafana coach is backing his team to get the better of Al-Ahly on Saturday despite losing 2-0 in the first leg of the CAF Champions League in Cairo. The Brazilians need to score three unanswered goals to advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League like they did last season. Just like this season, they face the Egyptian giants in the quarter-finals. Last year they annihilated Al-Ahly 5-0 at Lucas Moripe Stadium.
They will be looking for a repeat of that performance on Saturday. With the league not in their control, the Champions League is their best shot at finishing the season with a “grand slam” - as Mosimane calls the continent’s premier knockout competition and the Absa Premiership.
It’s a tough mission, but not an impossible one as they have shown that they can open up Al-Ahly with ease. There is also the fact that the Red Devils haven’t won a game in this country. But more importantly - the match is played at 3pm in Sundowns’ slaughterhouse. Weather predictions hint that the heat will be in the late 20s.
Sundowns will look to run Al-Ahly rugged in the boiling Pretoria heat, tire them out and then hit them with a sucker punch. The last time they did that to an Egyptian team, they ended up being crowned African champions. As Mosimane has said time and time again, there are goals in Pretoria. And the Brazilians will need plenty of them on Saturday.
The absence of Thapelo Morena will limit the speedy players at their disposal, but there is still plenty of pace and more importantly skill to get Sundowns over the finish line. Speed and skill have proven to be the biggest weapon at their disposal when it comes to taking on north African teams. They have done this with aplomb, earning the respect of clubs like Al-Ahly, Zamalek, Esperance, Wydad Casablanca and USM Alger.
The Brazilians have found the formula to unlock and frustrate the teams that dominate Champions League football. In this year’s last eight, six teams come from north Africa - proving that this is a valuable skillset to have in this tournament.
Sundowns will be in Al-Ahly’s faces, they will not back down from any challenge and will look to speed up the match as fast as possible with the Red Devils likely to slow proceedings down.
The fact that Al-Ahly aren’t a team that sits back bodes well for Sundowns. Al-Ahly will attack the Brazilians, thus creating space they will try to exploit in a venue where they are confident. Confidence will be an important part of Sundowns’ game plan. They will need plenty of it, and thankfully for them they have a factory of confidence in their coach.