JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane admits that he’ll need a “tiger’s performance” from his team against current African champions Wydad Casablanca when the two teams meet in the group stages of the CAF Champions League at the Stade Mohammed V on Friday night (8pm).
Sundowns trail Wydad by three points after four matches in Group C, and they’ll need at least a point in Morocco if they are to keep their chances of making the quarter-finals alive.
“I don’t think Wydad (Casablanca) will give you a chance for an all attack, you’ll see a red sea there - the shirts (and be terrified),” said Mosimane, who was referring to the thousands of supporters who come out and back Casablanca at home.
“You don’t get many opportunities there but Sundowns always gets one or two (chances) to score. If we don’t win, we should at least get a point but we can’t park the bus, we need to play. Going into the game, I need a little bit of tigers - people who’ll grind for the results.”
Mosimane is also banking on the return of duo Ricardo Nascimento (injured) and Tiyani Mabunda (rested) - who missed their MTN 8 victory over Golden Arrows over the weekend - as they hope to destabilize Casablanca’s set-piece firepower.
“Wydad is a difficult team to play because they are experienced and they know how to manage the game,” Mosimane said. “They play cleverly. They are very good on set-pieces and it was through those that we conceded a goal here at home.
“Champions League is a different kettle of fish. I need a little bit of balance from the team. So, I hope to have some of my defensive regulars back.”
Since their last meeting in a 1-1 draw at home in May, there’s been a massive squad overhaul at the Brazilians. The loss of Khama Billiat and Percy Tau has left a huge void in Sundowns’ aspirations of conquering Africa once more, and that was evident in their loss away to group minnows Togo-Port in July.
And the burden continued as some of the players who were brought in during the pre-season such as Lyle Lakay and Reyaad Pieterse are cup-tied following their participation in the CAF Confederations Cup’s preliminary round and last 32 earlier this year for Cape Town City and SuperSport United respectively.
“About six players during the pre-season left with a CAF spot,” Mosimane explained. “So we have to hold on there, and try to keep most of the players that are playing in CAF out of the MTN 8 matches.”
Meanwhile, Uruguayan Gaston Sirino seems to be slowly showing the Brazilians’ faithful that there’s life after Billiat and Tau with his match-winning performances lately. He played an integral part in making sure that Sundowns got three valuable points against Togo-Port in their return leg at home late last month.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old midfield also walked away with the Man of the Match award as he inspired Sundowns to this year’s MTN 8 semi-finals - the only trophy has eluded their cabinet in the past five seasons.
“He’s gaining confidence, and when a player plays like this it is because he’s happy,” Mosimame said of Sirino’s season so far.
“I think with time, he could do better because he has now adjusted to the local league, and he’s come out of the shadows.”