JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has described their MTN8 semi-final first leg clash against last year’s finalist Cape Town City at Cape Town Stadium, tomorrow (3pm kick-off), as a “thorn in the flesh.’’
In a space of a week, the Brazilians were also involved in the Absa Premiership and CAF Champions League set-up. On Wednesday, they played to goalless draw against Highlands Park in the league, while last Friday, they suffered a 1-0 away loss to reigning African champions Wydad Casablanca.
“This game for us is a thorn in the flesh,” Mosimane insisted. “It falls between the league and continental football. People do not understand the mood and the temperament of the emotions of the players from the past three games.
They have different outlines because you have to play a league game, where a draw can be okay, then a cup semi-final where you target the finals and the mood again changes when you know that the Horoya AC game (in the Champions League) doesn’t give you a chance but you have to win at all costs.”
While Sundowns will be playing their third competitive match in a week, City would be competing in their second successive encounter at home since playing Golden Arrows last Saturday. As a result, Mosimane is wary of their organised structure and sufficient rest.
“It will be a game of chalk and cheese compared to what happened on Wednesday night,” he insisted. “They are a highly organised team. They play from the back and build up well. They are a good group of players that’s led by a good coach. It will not be easy at all.”
Ever since Mosimane and his charges made the breakthrough in continental football four years ago, they’ve had little time to rehabilitate during the domestic football pre-season as that normally marks the commencement of the Champions League’s quarter-final stage. Their focus has been mainly to conquer Africa further. So, that is why the MTN8 trophy is the only piece of silverware that’s missing in the Brazilians’ cabinet since the 54-year-old coach took over the reins six years ago. However, booking this year’s semi-final spot has given the Chloorkop-based team some optimism.
“We are a very ambitious club at Mamelodi Sundowns because we want to compete in all the tournaments,” Mosimane explained. “It’s really difficult for us to have a go at it because of the commitments in Africa. But we have a chance now because we are in the semi-finals.”
Mosimane also stressed out that the financial windfall of the MTN8 trophy is something that causes a division between players and coaches. In this tournament, you compete in four games and get R8-million and while in the league it’s a different kettle of fish as you have to divide 30 games, home and away - and only get R10 million.
“When you talk about top eight, financially, it’s a good tournament,” he insisted. “Who am I to tell players what is right for them and not? As much as we can shout on the touch-lines and try to motivate them, they are human-beings and they know what’s in for them. In terms of priority, it’s really tough. It’s deeper.”@Mahlalibaleka