JOHANNESBURG – Pitso Mosimane finds himself in a catch-22 situation in how he assembles Mamelodi Sundowns’ squad for what will be a gruelling campaign with next season’s CAF Champions League congested into six months.
The congestion is due to the Confederation of African Football’s decision to change the calendar from February - November to August - May. Next season’s Champions League preliminary rounds will start in November, immediately after the end of this current campaign, and the tournament is scheduled to finish in May - just before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Sundowns are currently fighting to reach the quarter-finals of the 2018 Champions League, they will then start their Absa Premiership defence next month and later in the year take part in the continent’s premier club competition for a fifth season in a row. Mosimane will need a big squad to compete in all fronts, but he doesn’t like having a big squad.
“We have to prepare the overall team because we are in the Champions League which has 14 games up until the final,” Mosimane said. “It’ll finish in November and in December we start another 14 games. That’s 28 games with a lot of travelling. And then we’ve got the MTN8, Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup, on top of that there are 30 games in the league. So you won’t manage if you don’t have numbers.
“I don’t like it because this is the first time that I have numbers like this. I don’t like to have so many players but players are not superman so you have to have the numbers if you want to give your best in the upcoming season. You know players are not happy when they aren’t playing and it becomes a problem.
“We have about 26 players. We’re overloaded. I don’t know if I’ll manage to make all of them happy. The best thing is to play them all and rotate them.”
Jingles is also not a fan of rotation, he prefers to have a settled starting XI. He will do a lot of things he doesn’t like doing this season as he intends to sign three more players, a left-footed centreback, another leftback and an attacker - who may or may not be Maritzburg United’s Lebogang Maboe.
“There’s a 23-year-old that I think should come here. He can score goals. I won’t say his name because I’ll be in trouble. He wants to come here,” Mosimane said.
The Brazilians’ came up against the Team of Choice yesterday in a friendly match to prepare for their Champions League clash with AS Togo-Port on Friday at Lucas Moripe Stadium.
The players who featured in Togo played in that match while those who beat Kaizer Chiefs in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup on Saturday at FNB Stadium were rested. Sundowns languish at the bottom of Group C in the Champions League, three points behind leaders Wydad Casablanca.
“The only thing that we need to do is beat the people who are (just) in front of us which is Horoya and Togo-Port, don’t focus on Wydad,” Mosimane said.
“If you can do that, then you are second. Wydad has to play Horoya in Casablanca (on Saturday). I want Wydad to win. It’s good that they drew because the difference between us and them is three points. But I would like them to go through, stop Horoya and then we can beat Horoya and Togo-Port to go through. That’s it. Then you have qualified (for the quarter-finals).
It’s how you finish, not how you start. If you don’t win your home games, then you might as well forget.”@NJABULON