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Brazilians are down but not out

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The champions are in second-position with 32 points, nine behind log leaders Kaizer Chiefs.

In their bid to conquer domestic football in the last few years, Mamelodi Sundowns have had to overcome a number of obstacles.

And that’s why defender Wayne Arendse is not fazed by this week’s back-to-back league clashes against rivals Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United.

In the last six months, the Kings of South African football have undergone somewhat of a rollercoaster ride amid their attempts to balance between their domestic and continental duties – after the two campaigns started simultaneously in August.

In Africa, the Brazilians have gone about their business with aplomb, qualifying for the CAF Champions League knockout stage with two games to spare after topping Group C with 10 points after the fourth round of the group stage matches.

However, their domestic league form is yet to hit the top gear. The champions are in second-position with 32 points, nine behind log leaders Kaizer Chiefs.

Sundowns, moreover, have disappointedly dropped points when it mattered the most.

On Wednesday night, they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Pirates.

That must have knocked Sundowns’ morale, especially with their next assignment away to neighbours SuperSport United, who are third on the log and trail Chiefs by 10 points.

Despite the turbulent period, Arendse believes it’s too early to press the panic button, saying they’ve won the league before through winning the gruelling catch-up games of their congested schedule between domestic and continental duties.

“It doesn’t matter who you play, all the games are tough. We’ve been in this situation for many years now, where we play back-to-back (tough) matches – even in different competitions. But we have the squad for it,” he said.

“Everybody is ready to go. We’ve been in this situation where we play Wednesday and Sunday, it doesn’t matter who’ll you be playing but it is going to be tough because everybody is scrapping for points now.”

With Sundowns’ loss to Pirates on Wednesday night a dent to their title defence aspirations, that further increased the volume to the “outside noise” that has prematurely crowned Chiefs the league champions.

Should that become a reality, Amakhosi would break the record, that they jointly share with Sundowns, of having won 12 league titles apiece.

But with 13 matches and 39 points still up for grabs, before the curtain comes down on 2019/20 domestic league season, Arendse believes there’s still a lot that could unfold.

“We’ve been in a situation where we were 12 points behind, and we ended up winning the league – but there, we had games in hand,” he said.

“There’s still time to catch up. But we are not going to hide about it, we want to defend our league title and we are going to push until the last moment.”

Sundowns’ biggest blemish this season is the fact that they’re not scoring goals, while they’ve not been as solid at the back as they usually are.

However, having had three days to recuperate, the Brazilians will be hoping to have ironed out a few issues when they meet with the high-scoring Matsantsantsa A Pitori.

Mihlali Baleka