After being crowned the champions of the African Football League, Mamelodi Sundowns will continue with their continental duties, shifting their focus to the CAF Champions League where they will open their account in the group stages against FC Nouadhibou on Sunday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld.
After being knocked out in the semi-final last season, the Brazilians will be looking to finish the group stages on top of the table, so they can focus on preparing for the knockout stages to redeem themselves, according to Downs’ midfield maestro, Lucas Ribeiro.
“We are going to start this phase of the group stages with good intentions. We are a brilliant team and we are aware that we will be facing strong teams because all the teams are big teams to compete against. We know what happened last season, but this year we are more focused and we intend to win the tournament,” said Ribeiro.
FC Nouadhibou, who are eleven time champions of Ligue 1 in Mauritania, will be making their debut in the group stages of the CAF Champions League and they just might come guns blazing, wanting to cement their name in the tournament. Coach Rulani strongly believes that the Orange Club are a well-oiled team, including the rest of the teams in Group A.
“We find ourselves in a very difficult group, that has TP Mazembe who are the five times champions of the Champions League. A very aggressive Pyramid FC and FC Nouadhibou who are qualifying for the first time. After watching a few games of FC Nouadhibou, I see a well-coached team with some very good players. I’ve seen that they have won the league in Mauritania eleven times and six times was in a row,” the head coach said.
Coach Rulani also echoed what Ribeiro said, saying that his side’s main priority will be to first complete the group stages by winning the games and collecting maximum points to qualify for the quarter-finals.
“The objective for us is to qualify for the knockouts. The Champions League competition starts in the knockouts. The group stages are merely the qualifiers for the knockouts and this is our focus. We know what we have to do. We got to get ourselves in to a position where we can get enough points to qualify. Our first target that we set is to get to the quarter finals and that’s the focus that we have at the moment,” the Masandawana coach stated.
Ribeiro concluded by expressing the importance of his side winning the CAF Champions League. Furthermore, he stated that the intention is to collect all the remaining titles as they are equally important, but now their eyes are fixed on the Champions League title. He said: “winning the Champions League with the team would be a marvellous sensation. Even winning trophies in other competitions would mean as much. I think any cup that we can would be a big win for us but for sure Champions League is a bigger one because it would definitely put us in a different stage. We intend to win the Champions League and we are going to give everything we have to make sure that we win.”
Mamelodi Sundowns do clash with FC Nouadhibou on Sunday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld. Kick-off is scheduled for 15H00.