ALL IN THE MIND
MAMELODI Sundowns defender Mosa Lebusa says they have to be mentally strong in order to succeed in this season’s Caf Champions League.
Sundowns return to the continental showpiece today (4pm) as they have a date with Equatorial Guinea outfit Leones Vegetarianos in the first leg of the preliminary round of the competition.
A fine start this season will probably serve as a stepping stone for the remainder of the tournament, unlike in the last campaign when Sundowns failed to surpass the group stage.
“I’ve watched a couple of games from Sundowns (tenure in the Champions League) and you could see that they played different teams. Obviously that makes the mentality different compared to what we are used to back at home,” Lebusa said.
“Hence, we have to be mentally strong more than anything else. The travelling also plays a big part because travelling here (to Guinea) was madness, but I think that we made the most of it.”
A draw will be a positive result for Lebusa and company this afternoon but he understands that they have to finish off Vegetarianos.
While the return leg is scheduled for Tuesday, December 4, they first have to face neighbours THEIR opponents’ pedigree might suggest it could very well be an easy day at the office tonight for Orlando Pirates when they make their long awaited return to the Caf Champions League, but captain Happy Jele says it’s important to build their momentum right from the start.
With a name like Light Stars and given that the Seychelles league hardly gets any rave reviews, the Buccaneers could very well run riot tonight at Orlando Stadium.
It’s a preliminary round tie that marks the first step to the club’s lofty ambitions of matching their triumph in 1995.
“When we play Light Stars it will be the start of a long and difficult journey,” skipper Jele (pictured) said this week.
“Personally, I was there when we reached the final in 2013 and I remember how close we came and how much we wanted to clinch the Champions League trophy, especially for our supporters.
“Now that we have another chance it is key that we start things off on the right foot and build the momentum from there.”
Pirates will have to hit the ground running – after all this is what they have been working towards since the SuperSport United in a PSL Tshwane derby on Saturday.
“If you think about it considering the travelling, it’s madness,” he said. “However, we are professional players and we can’t complain about that. Our job is to play football and that’s why we are here.
“So if a fixture comes like that, we just have to pick up our chins and go with it. If we can get through this fixture, we’ll have good momentum.”
It’s been a dream start for Lebusa at Sundowns since moving from relegated Ajax Cape Town early in the season, although there were allegations that he wanted to stay at Ajax. However, he’s slotted well into coach Pitso Mosimane’s style of play, regardless of whoever he’s partnered in defence.
Mosimane has described the 26-year-old versatile defender as a future Bafana Bafana prospect, especially considering that he’s a left-footed centre-back.
As a result, the lad from Welkom says that the mentality of winning has kept him on his toes at the Chloorkop-based club.
“As a player, wherever the coach puts you, you have to give it your all,” Lebusa said.
“I wouldn’t complain if the coach wants to play me out of position as long I am helping the team progress into the next round. I think here at Sundowns the pressure is different because every game that we play is for us to win.
“It’s an ambitious club and the pressure of winning is different compared to where I come from.” arrival of Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic last season.
It was the coach who said their priority was never to win the domestic PSL title, but to – at best – finish runners-up and qualify for the Champions League.
Beat Light Stars over two legs, negotiate their way past either Volcan Club (Comoros) or African Stars (Namibia) and the South African outfit is in the group stages of the continent’s premier club competition.
“From looking at the next four fixtures we have a tough task ahead of us and as such it is key that we have our supporters there to help us through,” said Jele.
The Buccaneers have registered their big hitters for the Champions League and coach Sredojevic will have to become a master at rotating his players in both fixtures on the continent and at home.
There will be a quick turn around back to league action following their Champions League engagement when they host Maritzburg United at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night to try to hold on to their lead at the top of the standings.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD START: Mosa Lebusa of Mamelodi Sundowns says that the team needs to dig deep and grind out results if they want to proceed in the leagues in which they are competing.