CAF Champions League: Mamelodi Sundowns must be wary of ‘whipping boys’

Mamelodi Sundowns players pose for a group photo after winning the African Football League (AFL) final match against Wydad Casablanca. Picture: Phill Magakoe / AFP

Mamelodi Sundowns players pose for a group photo after winning the African Football League (AFL) final match against Wydad Casablanca. Picture: Phill Magakoe / AFP

Published Feb 23, 2024


On the face of it, Mamelodi Sundowns should secure their spot in the CAF Champions League knockout stage with victory over Mauritania’s FC Nouadhibou Saturday (6pm kickoff, SA time).

The African Football League (AFL) champions made easy work of the Mauritanians in matchday one of the group stages when they sauntered to a 3-0 victory at Loftus Versfeld back in November.

And with Nouadhibou seemingly the group’s whipping boys as they prop up the table, it makes sense to see a Sundowns win as the logical result.

But sport can be fickle at the top, and so Rulani Mokwena and his team would do well not to take anything for granted, lest they slip on the potential banana skin that is their opponents tomorrow.

Though they have been poor on the road – losing at both Sundowns and Mazembe – Nouadhibou have been good at home.

They are unbeaten in their backyard in two matches after they beat Pyramids 2-0 and drew 0-0 with TP Mazembe.

It is a record that is sure to give them confidence as they take to the field at the Stade de la Capitale in Nouakchott believing they can exact some revenge on their more fancied opponents.

And with Sundowns set to be without injured right back Khuliso Mudau and centre back Mthobi Mvala, Nouadhibou have more reason to dream.

Going into the penultimate match of the group, Masandawana know that victory will set them up for the knockout stage before their final clash with TP Mazembe at Loftus next week.

The Congolese giants are at home to Pyramids, and a victory for them and Sundowns will see both progressing.

But you can bet on the Egyptians stopping at nothing to make a fight of it, aware that victory over Mazembe will give them hope as they will need to beat Nouadhibou at home in their final match.

Such results could then see them finishing second behind Sundowns should the Brazilians not lose to Mazembe in the final round. It all makes this weekend’s matches that much more important.

In the secondary continental competition, the CAF Confederation Cup, South Africa’s two representatives, SuperSport United and Sekhukhune United, will be involved in a double header at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Sunday.

Matsatsantsa a Pitori tackle Modern Future at 3pm, while Ba Bina Noko are up against RSB Berkane at 9pm.

Bottom of their group with just three points, SuperSport go into the penultimate match with little hope of making the knockout phase.

And such have been Gavin Hunt’s complaints about the excessive travel and injuries to his lean squad that you can bet he is delighted the continental sojourn is about to end.

They complete the campaign with a trip to defending champions USM Alger next weekend.

Sekhukhune, on the other hand, have a slim chance of reaching the knockout phase, and will strive to beat Berkane in the hope they will then get maximum points in their final match at a Diables Noirs outfit they beat in the first round.