JOHANNESBURG – Pitso Mosimane has already done the maths in terms of what it will take for his Mamelodi Sundowns team to advance to the knockout stages of the Caf Champions League.
‘Jingles’ is targeting winning all Sundowns’ home matches and at least drawing two of the three away matches to get 11 points.
The first of those away matches is against Nigeria’s Lobi Stars in Enugu on Friday (6pm SA time kickoff).
The Nigerian side don’t have much pedigree in continental football compared to their opponents, who won the Champions League in 2016.
In fact, Stars are the odd ones out in a group that features Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast, who have all won the continent’s premier club competition.
“Lobi Stars for me is a closed book. Okay, we know about Lobi Stars as a team, but I don’t remember looking at Lobi Stars as a team playing,” Mosimane said immediately after the draw.
“I don’t see a lot of Nigerian football lately now that it’s no longer on our (TV) screens.
“But you know Nigerian teams, they are very physical and are big boys. They’re strong. In fact, everyone in our group (is physically strong).”
Between the draw and now, Mosimane would have dug up enough information on the Nigerian side that he probably knows their star player’s blood type, such is the thoroughness of his preparation.
Sundowns counter their opponent’s physical strength with pace and skills. Their pint-sized attackers, like Gaston Sirino, use trickery to beat giants who are twice their size.
Those attributes will come in handy against the Nigerian side, who haven’t conceded a goal at home in their two Champions League matches.
“We need to look after the set-pieces – corner kicks and free kicks – because we usually struggle with height and physique in that space,” Mosimane said.
“You don’t want to have to compete physically with such opponents because South African players’ size isn’t the same as north and west Africans teams. We have two west African teams that we have to ensure we beat at home.”
Mosimane’s equation assumes they might struggle to beat Wydad, which is why he wants to ensure that by the time they visit Casablanca for their last group match, qualification is already secured.
That means picking up at least four points against Stars, with Mosimane confident they can collect six points against the Ivorians.