Downs Look A Good Bet For Victory21/Jun/2017 14:44
On Wednesday, the big test for the Tshwane Giants will be whether they can bounce back to their best against Esperance on their home turf.
Nobody does their homework on tactics and understanding the opposition more thoroughly than coach Pitso Mosimane and his technical team of Manqoba Mngqithi and Rhulani Mokoena. Mosimane is known to sit through replays galore of his opposition, and the fact that they lost to Esperance, more through their own lack of aggression and taking their chances, would have given them the confidence that they can beat their opponents at home.
Sundowns were without some crucial players in that game, among them captain Hlompho Kekana and Khama Billiat, who played a critical role in getting the Tshwane Giants to the continental cup.
The Brazilians still have injury woes, with Ricardo Nascimento and Wayne Arendse still out, and Motjeka Madisha, who was stretchered off during the last encounter still doubtful.
Esperance went out for an early goal in Tshwane, but will likely be more cautious at home. They will also be more confident, so Sundowns would need to establish early dominance to rattle them.
The focus for the visitors will be to put down markers. They have done it before in the North African climate and environment. They have the resources which were not at their disposal in the first game, and more than anything they are full of confidence.
In addition, they have had some rest following a run of over 56 games without a break, and this will have done much for their confidence to play their regular game.
If it is considered that Esperance scored their first goal while Thabo Nthete was being attended to off the pitch, thereby leaving a gap, and the second goal a fortuitous penalty given away in referee’s optional time, this shows that the Sundowns makeshift defence were able to hold the North Africans at bay.
Coach Mosimane will also be pleased with the form of his boys who played in the national team for Bafana Bafana. Tebogo Langerman, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Themba Zwane, Tiyani Mabunda and the mercurial Percy Tau made major contributions as Bafana Bafana beat the Super Eagles of Nigeria away. Tau scored, while Zwane rattled the upright twice and was unfortunate not to get onto the score sheet.
Anthony Laffor missed his national team clash through injury, but has fully recovered, increasing the options for Mosimane as his combination with Thapelo Morena on the right has proved quite productive.
The option of playing crosses into the box will give both Leonardo Castro and Yannick Zakri the chances to finish off, while Kekana and Mabunda should be able to hold off Tunisian danger man Yassine Khamisse, who scored both goals in the Tshwane clash.
Sundowns may also opt to use Algerian left back Fares Hachi, who would be used to the environment in the region, and fully understands the approach to the game they may employ.
Although Esperance have not lost a CAF match at home since 2015, Mamelodi Sundowns are hungry for victory and must have a more than even chance to break yet another opponents unbeaten run like they did with AS Vita.