Mamelodi Sundowns are up against Sudanese side Al-Merrikh SC in match 2 of 6 in group A of the CAF Champions League in Egypt.
In a group of African heavyweights, The Brazilians began their CAF Champions League with a 1-0 victory over Al-Hilal a week ago and will be looking to build up momentum in their campaign as they draw near to their second fixture of the competition. Downs’ Co-Coach Rulani Mokwena expressed the team’s desire to win home and away encounters.
“I think it being the group stages and both teams are very experienced in this space, both teams are consistent participants in the group stages of the Champions League. The ambitions and targets set for us at Sundowns doesn’t make much of a difference whether we are home or away, but what’s important is a clear understanding of bringing our best performance.”
After playing six of their matches in their Champions League campaign last year, the Red Devils finished at the bottom of group B with two points in their account and no wins recorded, however their local domestic league record is an opposite reflection of their CAF performances. Merrikh finished in second place in the Sudanese Premier League, winning 20 matches and only losing 2 in the process to earn their spot in this year’s round of competitions.
“Al-Merrikh are a good side, the good thing is that not much has changed from the footage that we’ve received, and we’ve gone back into the last four games, the same sort of profile is very evident in the team. That 4-3-3 with a single pivot, from Dia #19, they’ve got two very experienced center halves, Tony [Edjomariegwe] is very very important for them, plays on both the left and in the right, he accelerates and Ahmed [Al-Tash] can also play on the right with his left foot to invert and come inside.”
“It’s a very difficult team with good profiles of individuals and players that are technically very, very good with regards to their relationship with the ball. They’ve got moments where they manipulate and give possibilities to threaten your goal, particularly with combination play, they make very, very aggressive runs into the box and they send a lot of numbers ahead of the ball and play in a very offensive style. [They are] very physical and aggressive in their duels, very aggressive with their counter pressing and very dominant with their set-pieces.”
Masandawana will be spending two weeks in North Africa in their quest to win the Champions League for the second time and seal a perfect season for the Yellow Nation. Coach Rulani is enthusiastic about the clash that awaits. Bafana Ba Style traveled after their Monday night encounter in Polokwane on the 14th to Johannesburg to prepare for their travel in the early hours of the morning to Egypt.
“It’s difficult but we have to soldier on, the players have got a lot of experience in dealing with these types of conditions, everything has been going according to plan and we’re in a very good space and looking forward to what should be a very interesting match.” Coach Rulani expressed.
He added: “You have to change gears, it’s a different competition that needs you to be in the right space mentally, so that acclimatization helped with regards to that and some of the contents in our training session were based in that psychological shift from the local domestic front, where in the PSL you get possibilities to win the league because you’re the best team consistently with the best players. The Champions League is a different monster particularly in the group stages, you need to be very close to perfection, you need to be very close to your optimal level of performances because it’s only six matches in the group stages to be able to get into the knockouts where we all have a clear understanding that’s when the tournament actually kicks off.”
Mamelodi Sundowns play against Al-Merrikh SC on Saturday, 19 February in the CAF Champions League match 2 of 6 at the Al-Saalam Stadium, Cairo. Kick off is at 15h00 and will be televised on SuperSport.