Young stars give Pitso a good headache
The Brazilians coach knows that victory tonight will help him put more pressure on leaders Kaizer Chiefs and to do so he needs to put out his best starting line-up on the field.
And with the other challengers Bidvest Wits also in action tonight against Highlands Park, it is a case of win at all cost for the defending champions against Phunya Sele Sele.
But there is a youngster who has raised his hand for inclusion in the first 11 that Mosimane will find hardtop ignore, football’s oft right maxim that “kids cannot win you championships” notwithstanding.
Nicholus Lukhubeni had a blinder in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat of Chippa United and many will expect to see him starting tonight.
“He puts me under pressure now,” Mosimane said after that clash which saw Lukhubeni score just 70 seconds into the match and snatch the Man of the Match award in only his second start for the Brazilians.
For his goal, the Sundowns’ academy graduate stole the ball in the centre of the pitch, went on a solo run before squeezing the ball past the Chippa goalkeeper.
“He kept going. I thought he was going to pass. He kept going and going. He is very fortunate that he has a left and right foot, and he scored. Good for him, and he won the Man of the Match award. It’s unbelievable. He puts me under pressure now.”
A week ago, Lukhubeni would have been lucky to be on the bench with Thapelo Morena the club’s first choice at right-back. But when Morena is pushed forward, the experienced Anele Ngcongca plays at righ-back. Yet with both Morena and Ngcongca nursing injuries last week, Mosimane was forced to start Lukhubeni. The 23-year-old ran with the opportunity.
Even though Mosimane says he is targeting all three competitions - the ABSA Premiership, Nedbank Cup and CAF Champions League - the team he will field tonight and on Sunday will reveal what his main priorities are.
Mosimane is likely to field a full strength team tonight as Sundowns need all three points against Celtic as it would move them to second place - four points behind Chiefs. He then can rest some players against the Vaal University of Technology in the Nedbank Cup on Sunday with one eye on the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Al-Ahly in Egypt next weekend.
This is where the club’s academy graduates come in. Lukhubeni, Siphele Mkhulise and potential future captain Motjeka Madisha are the club’s bright academy graduates who are now playing first team football.
Mosimane has admitted that his conservative ways stalled Percy Tau and Mkhulise’s graduation to the first team. He will look to change that with future graduates by not only giving them a chance but allowing them space to grow.