Sundowns’ treble target enters the final stretch
Until last Saturday afternoon, it had been a memorable season for the Brazilians in continental football after reaching their second successive quarter-finals of the African competition.
But at the Lucas Masterpieces Stadium things went south for the Brazilians as they crashed out of the knockout stage of the competition after a 1-1 draw with Egyptian giants Al Ahly - subsequently losing the tie 3-1 on aggregate following the 2-0 loss in the first leg in Egypt.
This was a disappointment for the Brazilians who had set a record of becoming the first South African team to finish their group stage round robin matches unbeaten. But in the bigger scheme of things, there’s no time to sulk and moan. Sundowns turn their focus to domestic football where they’ll try to book their ticket to next year’s continental showpiece - be it via winning the Nedbank Cup to qualify for the Confederation Cup or the Absa Premiership to qualify for the Champions League.
Still in the running to win both trophies - as they are in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup and are second on the Absa Premiership log standings - Sundowns are well on course to win a treble after already bagging the Telkom Knockout late last year.
“It’s a season that’s a bumper to bumper now. We are highly motivated as a team and we speak the same language of winning at this moment. The two trophies that are remaining are very crucial for us,” attacking midfielder Sibusiso Vilakazi explained.
The Brazilians may be eyeing the South African premier club knockout competition as one of the springboards to return to Africa next season but there are three hurdles they’ll need to pass before that feat is achieved.
Dr Paul Maphoto, the Team Doctor reminds the Players and Technical Team about the #CoronaVirus threat & precautionary measures to take, considering the risks associated with playing a contact sport.#Sundowns #Covid_19 #CoronaVirusInSA pic.twitter.com/5fYR5Hxzij— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) March 13, 2020
First they’ll have to overcome a Highlands Park side who they visit at Makhulong Stadium this evening (6pm kick-off) in the last eight of the competition.
Vilakazi says they cannot afford to let the opportunity of bagging another trophy slip past. “The Nedbank Cup is important (because we get to play against teams from all over the country and we go to Africa). It has presented itself and so, why not go all the way? It’s a very good opportunity to put it in front of us.” Pitso Mosimane’s men take the short trip from Chloorkop to Tembisa having boosted their morale by winning their midweek away league match against Stellenbosch FC, thus closing the gap between them and log leaders Kaizer Chiefs, who’ve played one game more, to four points.
Sundowns, the back-to-back champions, may be slightly on the back foot in their bid to defend their crown, but those informed know very well that once they pick up form in the closing stages of the season, they can be unstoppable.
After all, it was after winning their last five games in succession that they retained their league title after dethroning Orlando Pirates, who slipped in the penultimate round away to Cape Town City at the Athlone Stadium last season.
“The league is not in our hands but we’ll keep on pushing. Even last year, it wasn’t in our hands but we kept on pushing. And maybe this year, it will require more of what we put out last year,” Vilakazi explained.