Sundowns Want Break Away Victory Against Tunis31/May/2017 23:09
Mamelodi Sundowns and Tunisian Giants ES Tunis are neck and neck on the Group C log in the CAF Champions League on four points, and on Friday at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, the sides would want a breakaway victory.
The defending African champions’ coach Pitso Mosimane has made it clear that his side wants the three points so the pressure to catch up goes to Tunis. The two sides both drew goalless against St George, and both won 3-1 against AS Vita Club, but Sundowns’ hope lies in the fact that Tunis have to go into the cauldron that is the home ground of Vita, while Tunis hope that St George halt Sundowns in Ethiopia.
The two sides have not played each other before, but they are quite familiar with how they each play. The Tunisians have won the Champions League twice before, and have the experience learned in previous campaigns.
But they have a young squad campaigning this time round, with an average age of 24,4 years, and the youngest being 19 year old M Talbi. In comparison, Sundowns are looking to experience, but with their long list of injuries – eight at last count, plus the flourishing Yannick Zakri out on yellow cards, Mosimane will have to dig very deep into his resources.
Sundowns showed their credentials when they went into the DRC to outplay and outwit Vita in a classic display. Yet their performances at home have not delivered the results expected of them. They have only won once at Loftus, and once away twice in their last six, with the rest of the games ending in draws.
Can they snap out of their Lucas Moripe Stadium winless streak? Mosimane would hope so, as would the Yellow Nation on the stands. Victory would take the Tshwane Giants to seven points, which would give them the edge going forward.
Tunis, on the other hand, are top of their domestic league, and have won four of their last six games. They have F Sassi to thank for their goals, but he has shown that he can be contained and restricted in approach play.
Mosimane has bemoaned the manner in which they have dropped points, and would have been working hard at resolving those issues. The goals that they have conceded in the final minutes of the game suggest lapses in concentration. They need to be on the alert in particular against Tunis, who have scored 28,4 of their goals in the 75-90 minutes period. They would have noted the chink in Sundowns armour.
Sundowns need to score the early goal to settle the nerves, and they have a good track record of doing this, scoring more than a third of their goals in the first fifteen minutes.
Mosimane would have spent time with his front men going through their decision making when opportunities arise, as they have missed many scoring opportunities and could have scored if this aspect had been better.
The good thing for Sundowns is that they have had a much needed break after their final league game last Saturday, a game which they played at a pedestrian pace as if to preserve energy. They also had several regulars, including captain Hlompho Kekana, on the sidelines – giving these players an even longer rest and recovery period.
Percy Tau started one game from the bench, but the coach will still have a nervous time with his selection at centre back. Thabo Nthete, who has not had much time on the field, has been getting back to form , and he carries the responsibility of mentoring young Motjeka Madisha. Up front, Sibusiso Vilakazi scored in the game against Vita – a goal which would have restored his confidence.
Themba Zwane scored a brilliant goal at the weekend, and has been contributing massively from a defensive midfield role, but in the absence of Zakri, and the possible return of Khama Billiat, and Leonardo Castro looking comfortable on the ball once more after a long term injury, he may well play in a more attacking role.
Sundowns would have benefited from the intelligence that their Algerian defender Fares Hachi could provide on the North African side, and Mosimane would have planned meticulously with his assistants Mangqoba Mnqithi and Rhulani Mokoena, for they all know how critical Friday’s game is if they have to go into the next round of their title defence.