Tough ask for Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns to consolidate in CAF Champions League
JOHANNEBSBURG - MAMELODI Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs have had contrasting outings in the group stage of the CAF Champions League thus far. But both teams are eager to bag maximum points in match-day three of the competition.
Chiefs have endured a turbulent start in their campaign as they are third in Group C with one point after two matches. They drew the first match at home against Horoya AC.
In the second, which was held in Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso last Sunday, Amakhosi were humiliated 4-0 by Wydad Casablanca, who are on pole in the group after bagging maximum points in their first two matches.
Chiefs, though, will hope to get their campaign up and running when they meet Angolan side Petro de Luanda at the FNB Stadium today (6pm kick-off).
However the Soweto giants have problems defensively. Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune will miss the match after his sister died in a fire at their family home on Thursday. Captain and defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele is suspended after receiving a red card against Wydad.
Their striking department is also troubled. Leonardo Castro sustained a knock while the technical team has cited exhaustion challenges for Samir Nurkovic. Despite their hurdles, Chiefs want to put on an impressive display against Petro.
“The biggest problem has been the inconsistent selection of the team, which is out of my hands. In every game we’ve had to change here and there, that's the first thing. And I think that will likely be the case tomorrow again,” said their 56-year-old coach Gavin Hunt.
“I think defensively we haven’t had a settled defence for ages and that doesn’t help us. But no excuses, we’ve got to do better. We’ve made some huge errors. But we’ve got to do better in conceding and scoring. Conceding of the goals has been the major problem.”
Sundowns haven’t had such problems. They lead the domestic league standings with 36 points and have two games in hand, ahead of second-placed SuperSport United who trail by three.
Their continental campaign has been almost perfect as they are top of Group B with six points after defeating Al Hilal and CR Belouizdad. The Brazilians hammered the latter 5-1 away from home in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last Sunday.
But perhaps the Brazilians will meet their toughest assignment in the group yet when they clash with second-placed TP Mazembe at the Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi this afternoon (3pm kick-off). Mazembe are second in the group with two points.
Mazembe’s inability to win in their first two matches is appalling, considering that they were and are expected to go toe-to-toe with the Brazilians. But the South Africans know that they can't take the Congolese for granted, especially with the depth in their squad.
“Interesting team, very good team. Defensively, they are very strong. We’ve watched their last three matches, so in relation to what we’ve seen, we know that they play in a 4-4-1-1 formation,” Sundowns’ co-coach Rhulani Mokwena said.
"But it will be a very interesting match because we still have to tactically activate ourselves and make sure that we prepare for a team that has very complex personalities and aggression. But they can be very conservative also. They need the three points more than us."