The Star Late Edition
PITSO HAS ‘INSIDE INFO’ ON DOWNS
WILL Mamelodi Sundowns be able to outsmart their former coach Pitso Mosimane on Saturday?
That is the question on the minds of the most ardent football lovers as Egyptian champions Al Ahly prepare to host the South African champions in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
The game will mark the first time that Mosimane will be up against his former employers after having left the Pretoria club at the end of last season.
The Egyptian side will go into the tie as favourites. They will have insider information on Sundowns’ tactics and players, as the core of the reigning SA Premiership title holders remains the same as when Mosimane was in charge.
Al Ahly also boast a superior record in continental competition, which could give them a psychological advantage over their opponents.
The Egyptian giants have won Africa’s premier club competition a record nine times and finished as runners-up a further four times.
Although Sundowns have now established themselves as one of the top clubs in Africa, they have only won the Champions League once – under the mentorship of Mosimane in 2016.
The two teams met at the same stage of the competition in 2020 with Egypt’s Red Devils managing to prevail 3-1 on aggregate. Al Ahly recorded a 2-0 win over Downs at home before managing to hold them to a 1-1 draw in the second leg at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria.
However, it would not be out of nowhere if Sundowns were to prevail.
Sundowns did famously humiliate the north African side by beating them 5-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2019.
Themba Zwane, Ricardo Nascimento and Gaston Sirino all scored in the 5-0 first-leg win and are still in the Sundowns team. That result will still be fresh in the players’ minds and will give them confidence that they do have what it takes to prevail over two legs.
Al Ahly may also feel the pressure a bit more as they also have to focus on their league and therefore have to take extra care in managing their players.
Mosimane’s side are second in the Egyptian Premier League, four points behind bitter rivals Zamalek, albeit having played two games less.
By contrast, Sundowns are on the verge of wrapping up the Premiership title again. They hold a seven-point advantage over nearest rivals AmaZulu with just four games remaining.
It’s safe to say that Sundowns can select their best players for the tie while Al Ahly will have to manage their players carefully as they battle on two fronts.