Pitso Mosimane is bullish about Mamelodi Sundowns’ chances in the group stage of the CAF Champions League. The former African champions were grouped with Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca, Lobi Stars of Nigeria and Ivory Coast’s Asec Mimosas in Group A in the draw that was conducted in Cairo on Friday.
Sundowns will start the group stage with a trip to Nigeria on the weekend of 11-13 January. Their first home match is against a familiar foe in Wydad Casablanca. This will be the third year in a row Sundowns are taking on the Moroccan side. The two sides met in the group stage this year and also faced each other in the quarterfinals last year.
“We got Wydad again, for a third time in a row,” Mosimane said. “It’s good to play Wydad again because all our games with them are tight. There’s no team that’s scored two goals. In some instances penalties separate the two teams. It’s a good draw. We know where we stay when we play Wydad. The challenge of going to Wydad is the flying because there are no direct flights to Casablanca. It’s either you go via Europe, Accra or Senegal.”
Sundowns will then take on Asec back-to-back in February after facing Wydad and Lobi Stars in January.
“We haven’t played Asec in the past,” Mosimane said. “They’re Soumahoro Bangaly and (Yannick) Zakri’s former team. We got the two players from them which shows that they’re a good team. They play on an artificial pitch. We can’t complain about that because we have played on an artificial pitch before. They’re a tricky team to play away. They’re technical and physical. Even though they’re difficult away, you’ve got to win at home. In my opinion, we can get four points out of Asec.”
Bafana BaStyle’s last two matches in the group will be hosting the Nigerian side in March and then end the campaign with a trip to Casablanca to take on the 2017 Champions League winners. They’ll balance this schedule with their domestic league commitments in the Absa Premiership and the Nedbank Cup. But that’s not new to Sundowns. They’ve been doing this for the last two years. Mosimane and his technical team know how to handle this load and what it takes to get out of your group in the Champions League.
“The most important thing in the Champions League is winning at home,” Mosimane said. “You must also make sure that in the three games away, you at least get two draws. If you do that, you’re guaranteed qualification in the knockout stage.
“The best thing you can do is win at home. We have to win at home. With how our games are structured, we’re going to play Wydad in our last match of the group. You don’t want to get to that match needing to get a result. You have to do what you need to do as early as possible. You’ve got to have a good start and hit the ground running with your home games.”