Playing in an empty stadium devoid of fans will suit Pitso Mosimane's Al Ahly more than his former employers Mamelodi Sundowns when the two teams cross paths in the return leg of the CAF Champions League quarter-finals in Atteridgeville on Saturday.
This won't be just a “homecoming match” for Mosimane – and perhaps that's why most of the Egyptian media have followed it with huge interest. It's an encounter which could very well make or break his career as the coach of the African giants, Al Ahly.
Mosimane inspired the African Club of the Century to the Champions League crown last season after taking over the reins from the semi-finals. His team beat Wydad Casablanca and Zamalek in the last four and final respectively en route to the throne.
But the Kagiso-born coach has come under fire this season during his team's title defence, especially after finishing second in Group A – behind Simba SC. But after Al Ahly were drawn in the quarter-finals against the Brazilians that was earmarked as a shot at redemption for him.
Mosimane knows the Brazilians like the back of his hand. After all, the 56-year-old was responsible for their success of 11 trophies in the last seven and a half years, which included five league titles, four local trophies, the Champions League crown and Super Cup.
Mosimane welcomed his former employers, now coached by his understudies Rhulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mngqithi, to Cairo last Saturday.
The master put one over his students, with Al Ahly winning the first leg 2-0.
Led by club president Mahmoud El Khatib, the Red Devils made a quiet entrance in Joburg this week. There's no doubt that if it wasn't for Covid19 restrictions, Mosimane, who has endeared himself to local fans, would have got a hero's welcome.
But perhaps the Covid-19 restrictions, which urges people to stay at home and which will see Sundowns host Al Ahly at an empty Lucas Masterpieces Stadium, will work for Al Ahly who have never beaten Sundowns on home soil. Mosimane reasoned that “the tie is not yet over, instead they are leading 2-0 at half-time”. The Brazilians' undefeated streak against Ahly on home soil might be a morale booster for their coaches and players, although they'll rue the absence of the fans on match-day.
But just like in Cairo, the team which is more clinical up front will be rewarded in the end. Both teams have decorated personnel and play eye-catching football, but what is important is sharp shooting and closing of spaces, especially defensively.
Whichever team progresses to the semi-finals will meet Casablanca or MC Alger. Victory will also be a boost ahead of their respective league encounters.
Sundowns will face SuperSport United in the Tshwane derby where a win will crown them the league champions for a fourth successive season. Al Ahly will travel to Qatar to face BS Berkan in the Super Cup. But before that all eyes will be in Atteridgeville for Jingles' homecoming.