JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns are so confident of progressing to the semi-finals of the Caf Champions League that they’ve already booked accommodation and sorted out visas to go straight to Algeria after Casablanca.
Sundowns host 19-time Moroccan champions Wydad Casablanca at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Sunday. The African champions will travel to Morocco the following day for the return leg on Saturday next week at Stade Mohamed V.
The winner of this two-legged affair will face either Algeria’s USM Alger or Ferroviario Beira of Mozambique in the semi-finals. Should the Algerians win, they would host the first leg on the last weekend of the month.
“We are not coming back (from Morocco),” Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane said. “We believe that we will go through. So if we go through, why should we come back? To spend a day in South Africa and then go to Algeria because I believe that USM will beat the Mozambicans?
"But football is unpredictable. We have two visas (one for Morocco and the other for Algeria). We have booked for us to stay there for the next two weeks. And you lose money (for the bookings) if you don’t win.
“How can we say that we aren’t going to the semi-finals? If I don’t book what am saying to the players? That, we are going to come back (because we will be eliminated by Casablanca)’? No! I book. You need to have a positive mentality. I think that we will make it.”
The Brazilians almost met Wydad in the Champions League final last year. The Moroccans rose from the dead after being hammered 4-0 by Zamalek in the first leg in Egypt to win the second leg in Casablanca 5-2, narrowly losing out on reaching the final. That match perfectly summed up Wydad.
“What does that tell you? That they don’t die at home, they fight hard,” Mosimane said. “This story of us doing well away might backfire if we don’t make the most of our home advantage. Let’s try and take the old book, dust it up and use it against Wydad.
"That book is what we did last year, winning all our home games and scoring two goals or more. We must win at home because you never know what will happen in Casablanca.”
Sundowns have struggled to make their home ground a fortress like they did last year, winning all their games at Lucas Moripe Stadium. This year they have been impressive on the road, beating AS Vita and Saint George along with holding Esperance to a goalless draw in the trips they made in the group stage.
Mosimane is banking on the Brazilians’ showing against the North Africans, especially in their own backyards - having outclassed Algeria’s ES Setif and Zamalek last year before holding their own against Esperance - to carry his team to the last four.
“There is no time to cry or complain when you’re playing there,” Mosimane said. “We have to man-up and play. We are fortunate to have Fares (Hachi), an Algerian. He knows the mentality.
"He is helping us, telling us that we have to man up. We also have international players who have played there like Denis (Onyango) who went with Uganda to Egypt and Kennedy (Mweene) who was in Algeria with Zambia.”