Business Day

Sundowns not looking too far ahead — Mokwena

- Tiisetso Malepa

Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena has said the champions are keeping their feet on the ground ahead of their showdown with Orlando Pirates in Soweto on Saturday.

Mokwena said this despite early dominance from a side bidding for what would be an unpreceden­ted fifth Premier Soccer League (PSL) title in a row and 11th overall since the PSL’s inception in 1996.

Sundowns lost just one match and conceded 14 goals in 30 matches as they dominated their way to the title last season. The champions are yet to concede a goal and have collected 10 out of a possible 12 points this season.

They have won three and drawn once in their opening league matches to prompt debates that The Brazilians will again sweep all before them in 2021-22.

Sundowns have easily been SA’s dominant club, with four PSL titles and a Caf Champions League (2016) and Caf Super League (2017) gold medals in the past five years.

Mokwena did not disagree with the suggestion that perhaps the Champions League stage, where Sundowns have fallen at the semifinal stages in recent years, is where The Brazilians will be most tested in the current campaign.

“Of course the Champions League is the playground and natural habitat for Mamelodi Sundowns,” said Mokwena after the club overwhelme­d TS Galaxy 3-0 at Loftus on Sunday to go top of the log.

“Sundowns is a big club and the Champions League is a stage for big clubs. That is the level we want to be in, but the reality is that football is such a difficult sport that if you get too far ahead of yourself you are going to have a lot of problems.

“We work match by match, day by day, and we want to win every single match. This means we have got to win every single day. Every single training session must be a win and every rest day must be a win.”

Pointing to the team’s “indispensa­ble training sessions”, he highlighte­d “the amount of work done by the technical team” and their “planning to review the previous performanc­e and making sure that we do our correction­s”.

Ahead of their trip to Orlando Stadium on Saturday, Mokwena said Downs will watch the video of their match against Galaxy to see where improvemen­ts are needed.

“We analyse the weaknesses and strengths of the opposition, and the amount of time it takes to prepare for a match also does not allow us to get ahead of ourselves. We go step by step, match by match, competitio­n by competitio­n, and without even thinking too much about the Champions League.

“Of course we have one eye on it and we know where we are going for the qualifying round, but our focus is 150% on Orlando Pirates now.”

Sundowns will confront a Pirates team who have amassed eight points from their two wins and two draws.

“Pirates is a club built on respect, family values and humility,” said Mokwena.

“So without getting too far ahead of ourselves, the next match is the most important one for us.”

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