JOHANNESBURG - Mamelodi Sundowns plan to use their friendly against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday as a pick-me-up before they return to the serious business of the CAF Champions League next week.
The Brazilians take on Amakhosi in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup at FNB Stadium with kick-off at 3pm. The Tshwane side will arrive in this match down in the dumps following their 1-0 loss to AS Togo-Port on Tuesday in Lome. They languish at the bottom of Group C at the halfway mark. Sundowns have collected just two points from three matches. But the situation is redeemable. The Tshwane giants are only three points behind Wydad Casablanca and Horoya who sit in first and second place respectively with five points each.
“This group is open and that’s what gives us hope,” Anele Ngcongca said. “A win for us (on Friday next week in the return leg against AS Togo-Port at home) will take us to five points. We don’t know what will happen between Wydad and Horoya (who face each other in Morocco on Saturday next week). We just have to win our game. That’s all. No beautiful football. We just need to win the game.”
Sundowns have looked like a shadow of their former selves on the continent. They aren’t as lethal as they were two years ago when they won the 2016 Champions League having scored two or more goals in all their home games with a 100 percent winning record in front of their own fans. Last season they were stronger on the road than they were at home. This season they have been underwhelming in both fronts.
They’ll briefly put their Champions League concerns aside to focus on their clash with Amakhosi which will offer them a competitive edge in preparation for AS Togo-Port’s visit. Pitso Mosimane is likely to field mostly players who didn’t feature in Togo and mix them up with new signings while Chiefs will go for their strongest team as they look to impress new coach Giovanni Solinas who is still sorting out his work permit.
“This is a very important match for us,” Ngcongca said. “We have to show our character and bounce back from our loss to Togo-Port by beating Kaizer Chiefs. This will test our character. It’s a good opportunity for the new players to show our supporters what they are all about. I think that it’s going to be a nice game for both teams. But you know at Sundowns, we’re always playing to win. We will make sure that we win it for the supporters. It’s the first cup these two teams will be contesting in pre-season. We want to have our hands on that trophy.”
This match will not only help these two giants fine-tune their teams for the upcoming season, it will also give them a glance of what could come when they open the Absa Premiership against each other at Loftus Versfeld on 4 August.
“This game will not be a true reflection of what will happen in the league,” Ngcongca said. “The league match will be totally different. The players will be cautious coming into this game on Saturday because they won’t want to get injured because this will be a long season for both teams. People mustn’t read much into the results from this game. They’ll visit us at Loftus in our first league game. Our home games will be crucial this season. We have to make Loftus our slaughterhouse.”