Pressure on for Sundowns ahead of Mauritania trick trip

GASTON Sirino and Matias Esquival will play important roles for injury hit Mamelodi Sundowns. | BackpagePix

GASTON Sirino and Matias Esquival will play important roles for injury hit Mamelodi Sundowns. | BackpagePix

Published Feb 24, 2024


MAMELODI Sundowns are taking on huge amounts of pressure ahead of their trip to Mauritania to face Nouadhibou in the CAF Champions League.

The two teams will battle it out at the Cheikh Ould Boïdiya Stadium in Mauritania today at 6pm.

The group stages of club continental competition are nearing completion with teams left with two games each to decide their fates in the tournament.

The Brazilians head into this match in an uneasy second spot in group A. They are level on points (7) with TP Mazembe but just three away from Nouadhibou who occupy third while Pyramids remain interested on four points.

The group Sundowns find themselves in is undoubtedly one of the most difficult this season and was blown wide open when Sundowns lost away at Mazembe and failed to beat Egypt-based Pyramids at home.

Head coach Rulani Mokwena will have to shake off various off-field duels and focus his men on the task at the end, which could turn their 2023/2024 campaign sour very quickly.

With the next encounter being the penultimate of the group stages, a slip-up by Sundowns might see their fate out of their own hands which raises the importance of their trip to Northwest Africa.

Sundowns will head into this encounter in a confident vain though after having won the first round encounter against Nouadhibou 3-0.

Mokwena has not only had to manage mentality and the spotlight in recent weeks but also his squad management following Bafana Bafana’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

The Brazilians had 10 players as part of Bafana’s squad which has in turn affected their return to club football.

While the likes of Ronwen Williams, Thapelo Morena and Terrence Mashego have already gotten minutes in both the league and the Nedbank, Sundowns have missed some of their most important players.

Club captain Themba Zwane alongside Mothobi Mvala, Khuliso Mudau, and Thapelo Maseko are all still using various injuries suffered at Afcon with huge uncertainty around where they’ll return for this encounter.

However, the Brazilians will be pleased to know the availability of January signing Thembinkosi Lorch will offer them a boost.

Lorch completed his move to Sundowns from Pirates on the 26th of January.

Though the 30-year-old attacker was previously registered for the CAF Confederations Cup by Orlando Pirates, he did not feature in Pirates’ bombing out of the competition where they played Comoros’ Djabal FC before being eliminated by Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy.

Alongside Lorch, Sundowns have been boosted by the arrival of Argentina-born man Matias Esquival who has seemingly hit the ground running by registering a goal and an assist in his first two starts.

With an injury-hit group, the return to form of Gaston Sirino, who scored a hat trick in the last game will also offer Mokwena more options in attacking areas.