JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns’ talisman Sibusiso ‘Vila’ Vilakazi might be wary of the danger that their Friday’s Caf Champions League opponents Wydad Casablanca pose in their backyard - but he remains optimistic that they can get a positive result at Stade Mohammed V.
The last time Vilakazi and Co visited Casablanca; it was in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals return leg, where they unfortunately succumbed to a 3-2 loss on penalty-shootout after the fixture had ended 1-1 on aggregate.
“We didn’t have a favourable result the last time we went there," Vilakazi admits. “This time around, we’d like to go there and try to change that situation and get a result. It would be a very huge moral boost to beat them at home, but we know that it won’t be easy. They are a very good team, that’s organised. That’s why it’s been proven in the past as they give us problems."
Sundowns left South Africa for Morocco on Monday morning via Ghana and landed around tea-time in Casablanca on Tuesday. The period of three days in the north prior to the match will give the Brazilians at least sufficient time to adjust and prepare themselves to the conditions.
“At Sundowns, I think it’s always been like that; where we travel earlier, and give ourselves enough time to acclimatise to the situations,’’Vilakazi said. “We also want to prepare much better. The most important thing for us is to be better prepared, so that this will show the seriousness of the game. We’ll also get a chance to go and check-out the surface conditions earlier as well.’’
The Brazilians’ have been in the continental set-up for the past four years, and they’ve made their mark so far, as they were crowned African champions two years ago - before being dethroned by Casablanca. The Brazilians have had to adhere to a strict programme that will also enhance them to be competitive in domestic football as well, and they’ve been doing just that - thus winning two Absa Premiership titles in the last four seasons. Vilakazi believes that whoever comes in always plays a huge role in helping the team succeed prior to the congested fixtures.
“Juggling between continental football and domestic has really been interesting," Vilakazi explained. “With the squad that we’ve been able to assemble, I think we have the right players (that will allow us to compete week-in an out). They are looking very fresh, sharp and we are looking forward to all the upcoming contests."
On a personal note, ‘Vila’ has had a good season so far as he scored in his last outing for Sundowns in both continental football and domestic - against Togo-Port and Golden Arrows, respectively. One could argue that he’s slowly coming out of the shadows, following the departure of Khama Billiat and Percy Tau, since signing for the club three seasons ago. And the Soweto-born, 28-year-old is also hoping to continue with the momentum going forward.
“You want to get better every day when given an opportunity," he insisted. “With the players that are surrounding you, you get a good and healthy competition. So, you want to build on the momentum and score goals. I mean if you can’t score goals, you can’t really help the team. But if you score, then you help the team especially when you win."@Mihlalibaleka