JOHANNESBURG – The significance of tonight’s CAF Champions League final group stage clash between Mamelodi Sundowns and Guinea’s Horoya was evident at the weekend when the South African champions rested their big guns in preparation for this win or bust fixture.
The Brazilians, who must beat Horoya in Atteridgeville to progress to the quarter-finals of the continent’s premium competition, fielded a watered down side in the first leg of their MTN8 clash away to Cape Town City, risking being on the backfoot ahead of the return match so that they can have their best eleven available tonight.
Benni McCarthy’s City won the match 1-0.
By his own admission, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has said their poor form on the road - as well as a campaign riddled with costly mistakes - have put them in this situation.
Sundowns began their journey in the group stages with a 1-1 home draw against title holders Wydad Casablanca.
Mosimane claimed they should have comfortably beaten the side from Morocco.
Then there was their away form - so poor and uncharacteristic of the Brazilians that the coach said it made him sick just thinking about it.
Sundowns succumbed to a 2-2 draw in Conakry in Horoya’s backyard and followed that up by suffering a shock 1-0 defeat in Togo against AS Togo-Port, rounding off their matches on the road with another 1-0 loss to Wydad in Casablanca more than a week ago.
At the Lucas Moripe Stadium tonight, Mosimane will set up his stall to go for the kill - he has no other option but to topple second placed Horoya to grab the remaining spot in Group C to make the quarter-finals.
Wydad have already qualified and their game away to Togo-Port is a dead rubber. Mosimane has been confident all along that Horoya won’t give them sleepless nights, after all it was through their own defensive errors that the Guinea side came from behind to earn a point in Conakry.
The coach made nine changes to the starting line-up that faced City on Saturday afternoon in the MTN8 and will make more tonight to reintroduce his key men.
Denis Onyango will return in goal to replace Kennedy Mweene, and the same with captain Hlompho Kekana and all other players who were rested like Andile Jali, Gaston Sirino, Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi.
It’s a strong team that can get the job done. But Horoya will be no pushovers.
This is a team that was given no chance to progress and they are now in a runners-up spot behind Wydad - only needing a draw against the 2016 champions to progress to the last eight. It’s a big moment, and if Downs underestimate them, then it only works in their favour.