JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns have a chance to settle a score with the reigning African champions Wydad Casablanca, who dethroned them in the quarter-finals of the Caf Champions League last year.
The Brazilians and the Moroccan giants are favourites to finish in the top two of Group C, having been drawn together alongside AS Togo-Port of Togo and Guinea’s Horoya in the ceremony that was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cairo on Wednesday.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane was at the draw to see an old enemy coming his way.
Mosimane bemoaned how Sundowns were knocked out of the cup they were trying to retain last year, having won it the hard way in 2016 by dismantling five-time African champions Zamalek.
Wydad went on to lift the Champions League after beating Sundowns on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Mosimane insists that his team had what it takes to win last year’s competition.
They have an opportunity to prove that by getting the better of the reigning champions in a group that shouldn’t be hard for them to negotiate their way out of.
Sundowns showed they have the character and mental strength to face any hardship by winning a match that resembled water polo at a waterlogged Loftus Versfeld, getting the better of Rayon Sports and the tricky conditions.
The Brazilians’ performance in that match and stature on the continent saw Rayon coach Ivan Minnaert tipping them to reach the final of the biggest prize in club football in the continent.
“Sundowns are always one of the favourites to reach the final,” Minnaert said. “In finals it’s the small details that determine who wins and losses.
“Normally Sundowns are one of the top teams together with Zamalek, Al-Ahly, Wydad, Esperance, and TP Mazembe.
“There are five or six teams that can win the Champions League. Sundowns are among those teams.”
The group stage matches will run from May 4 until August 29, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the quarter-finals that will be played in September.
Meanwhile, SuperSport United will take on Gor Mahia of Kenya in the Caf Confederation Cup playoffs, with a place in the group stage up for grabs.
The first leg will be played in Nairobi on the weekend of April 6-8, with the return leg held at Lucas Moripe Stadium on either April 17 or 18.
Bidvest Wits have it tougher in their quest to reach the group stage of the Confederation Cup following their elimination from the Champions League on home soil this past Saturday.
The Clever Boys were drawn with two-time African champions Enyimba.
Wits will host the first leg before travelling to Nigeria for the decisive leg.