While Sundowns have been the leading PSL club over the past few seasons, they’ve always found things tough against the rookie Cape side. The build-up this week has been spicy, with both coaches getting in a few good verbal jabs, and the players highly motivated by rivalry between the two teams.
City coach Benni McCarthy has been quick to point out that he is not too concerned about what Sundowns bring on the day.
He is, in fact, more focused on who to pick for the occasion. While winger Lyle Lakay sits out a one-match suspension, McCarthy has a number of players returning from injury and pushing for selection.
“If you lose players to injury or suspension, it always breaks your rhythm," said the former Bafana Bafana striker. "But we have to look for alternatives; the good news is that many of the other players have returned from injury. Mpho Matsi, Matthew Rusike, Craig Martin and Masoud Juma are all back and fighting for a place in the team. But that’s good, in that it gives me more options to choose from.
“On the other hand, that is where the headache comes in. I have to choose which 11 take the field and which 18 will be in the squad. People always say that is a nice headache to have, but that’s rubbish.”
McCarthy, though, acknowledged that City are in for a really stern challenge.
“We’ve already played Wits and Pirates in this competition, but this one (Sundowns) is going to be the toughest,” he said. "They are leading the league, so it’s a good motivation factor for us. If you want to win trophies, then you have to beat the best.
“We’re well rested and are keen to get back to doing what we do best. It’s certainly building up to be a nice encounter.
“Sundowns have a lot of depth – they have two or three players for every position. They’ll use a full strength team.
“They are already ahead in the league and now they can go for the Nedbank as well. They will come at us – they have many attacking options and they have (former City winger) Aubrey Ngoma too, we know his qualities.
“They will look to put us on the back foot and press us high. But we are a good building-up team, probably the best in the PSL, and you saw against Pirates how we deal with a team that presses high. We can break them down, and we can play between their lines, so we will be waiting for Sundowns if they want to press high.”
The 40-year-old is in his first stint as a head coach. It’s no secret that City boss John Comitis has placed no pressure on McCarthy in his debut season. There has been no mandate, and the coach has been allowed the time to stamp his philosophy on the team.
But McCarthy is made of different stuff - he’s never satisfied with the ordinary, he’s always looking to aim higher. So, while winning this competition doesn’t make or break him as a coach, he’s still intent on giving it a go.
“For us, it’s a chance for silverware,” he said. “It’s my first year of coaching and I’m not expected to win anything, but I always want to win and if there’s an opportunity to win something, then why not?
“We are going for it, we are ready.”