Pitso’s knockout Cup worry
It’s been a week of non-stop football for the Brazilians - one that not only drained them physically but also emotionally.
Trailing 2-0 from their away match in the CAF Champions League quarter-finals against Al Ahly a fortnight ago, Sundowns returned home with everything to play for on Saturday afternoon.
In the scorching heat of Pretoria, the Brazilians played their lungs out against the African Club of the Century but a shadow of despair engulfed them as they could only yield a 1-1 draw in their outing and lost the tie 3-1 on aggregate.
Dejected as they may be, the Brazilians had no time to sulk, instead they had to dust themselves off and focus on their catch-up games in the league.
They faced Stellenbosch on Wednesday night where they ground out a 1-0 victory, closing the gap between them and log leaders Kaizer Chiefs to four points.
Sundowns’ league campaign will be on hold this weekend as they’ll make the short trip to Makhulong Stadium to face a well-rested Highlands side in the quarter-finals of South Africa's premier club knockout competition, the Nedbank Cup.
Mosimane, though, feels his charges have given as good as they got in the last two matches, explaining that the extra 30 minutes after regulation time will be the last straw for their tired legs, especially ahead of the all-important league encounter against fellow title contenders early next week.
“You know, you need energy there (at Makhulong) in order to win, more than tactics.
“We’ll be in trouble in Makhulong, I can tell you now. But I hope that the game finishes in 90 minutes, whether we win or lose.
“It should not go to extra-time because it will affect our league game against Orlando Pirates on Tuesday,” Mosimane said.
After winning the Telkom Knockout, Sundowns are on course to claim a treble - which would include the league and Nedbank Cup. But there’s no doubt as they trail league leaders Kaizer Chiefs by four points, they’d rather miss out on the Nedbank Cup than drop points to Pirates mid-week.
Both tournaments are a springboard to continental football qualification next season but winning the Nedbank Cup sends you to the Confederation Cup, while the Absa Premiership is the springboard to the Champions League.
Mosimane is hoping his players can reserve some energy for their next league match against Pirates, but he’s also sweating over the fitness of some of his key players, which include attacking duo Gaston Sirino and Themba Zwane who suffered knocks against Stellies at Athlone Stadium.
However, while he’s left with today to assess the extent of their recovery, Mosimane has put his head on the block, saying he’ll most likely leave out the attacking wizards for tomorrow’s clash against Highlands as a safety precaution.
Despite leaving the duo out of his team, many might feel that Sundowns are still well equipped with enough depth to compete on all fronts.
Mosimane also agrees, however, emphasising there are always certain individuals who can easily influence results.
“I don’t want to be complaining about injuries because we have enough players that can also play. But sometimes, when you have certain players on the field, they can influence the results on the day,” he explained.
“When you don’t have (Peter) Shalulile, (Mthobi) Mvala and Lindokuhle Mbatha on the pitch then it’s a different Highlands.
And when we don’t have those players also, then it’s a totally different team but we can’t complain because we have other players.”