Khumalo points out that SuperSport were in a similar position last season and that Sundowns have so much depth that they could field a potent second team for the clash.
“It is what it is, but we are all professional footballers. Last season, everyone knows that SuperSport had issues with their local fixture list when they had a run in the Caf, but no one showed them any kindness,” Khumalo explained.
“If you’re a team involved in an African competition you have to live with that. Sundowns have the players and the depth and it’s not something that we consider as an advantage or disadvantage; we just have a game to play, and we’ll focus on that.”
While the Brazilians are looking to maintain their title defence aspirations, Khumalo and company are seeking a sound seasonal reconstruction following last campaign’s blunders. Just one point currently separates the two sides in the log as SuperSport sit fourth and Sundowns fifth.
“Every game is big for us because we want to be within touching distance of the top, keeping the competition and our season alive,” Khumalo said.
“Being the Pretoria derby it does have that special quality about it but at the end of the day it’s three points up for grabs. We need to get away from the fact that we haven’t done well in the derby before and obviously, because this is our home game, we want to make sure we honour it.
“Even though we’ve had injuries, we’ve also had players that have come in and put their hands up.”
As this is his second stint with Matsantsantsa - after spells with Tottenham Hotspur and Bidvest Wits - the 31-year-old has been an integral figure for coach Keitano Tembo’s team. So far, he’s made 15 appearances in all competitions.
“My mentality with any team I’ve been involved with is to try and add as much value as I can,” he said.
“Obviously I’ve been pleased with the game time I am getting and I’m still looking to grow, get better and win things. A winning feeling is addictive, and I’ve been blessed to have it in my career so I am still looking to continue with that feeling.”
Khumalo is aware that their defence needs to be wary of their club’s in-form former striker Jeremy Brockie.
After his poor display for Sundowns in the second half of last season - following his move from SuperSport he has been scoring cracking goals almost at will lately. The Kiwi-born striker finally broke his duck in October against Free State Stars, while that was followed by another delightful volley against Caf minnows Leones Vegetarianos on Wednesday.
“It’s the same plan as in the other games, but obviously with Brockie it’s different because he’s our ex-player. I’m sure he’ll be looking to get a goal but our job remains the same. As a defender you want to fight hard for clean sheets.”@MihlaliBaleka