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Downs need their 12th man in full voice

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“The Sundowns family has been good to the players the whole season”

MAMELODI Sundowns’ captain Hlompho Kekana has called on the club’s supporters to come out in their numbers for their crucial clash with Al Ahly tomorrow at Lucas Moripe Stadium.

The Brazilians host the eight-time African champions in the return leg of their CAF Champions League quarter-final after losing the first leg 2-0.

Sundowns need to win by three clear goals to advance to the semi-finals like they did last season. Kekana and his teammates were greeted by passionate Al Ahly fans at Cairo International Stadium who created an electric atmosphere despite only 30 000 of them being allowed in the 75 000-seater.

There are no such restrictions for Sundowns, which is why the club has been on a big drive to get fans to fill up the stadium.

“The Sundowns family has been good to the players the whole season,” Kekana said.

“This is the time that we need them to come in numbers. We are 2-0 down, we need that extra motivation from them, and I believe that they will come in numbers to cheer for us. With their support we can make it.”

Sundowns are banking on their good home record to get the better of Al Ahly who settled in the country quite early this week to acclimatise and look to avenge last season’s humiliation.

Al Ahly were thumped 5-0 by Sundowns in Pretoria at the same stage of this competition at the same venue. That result sent shockwaves across the continent. The Red Devils are eager to make up for that loss.

“To be honest, the same personnel (who were there when we won 5-0) are still in the team,” Kekana said.

“It’s just that they have changed the coach. The difference is the coach. It’s the same players and the same strategy. They still play strong guys up, which is (Marwan) Mohsen and (Junior) Ajayi. If we contain those two, half of the game is done. We just have to make sure that we put pressure on them from the first whistle.”

With eight Champions League titles, and 12 appearances in the final – the most by any team – the Red Devils own this competition.

Sundowns are upstarts making a name for themselves among the big boys in continental football. What they lack in pedigree, they make up for in footballing intelligence and turning Lucas Moripe Stadium into a fortress that not many teams want to visit.

“We have found the belief that we have to play our normal game here at home,” Kekana said.

“We have been doing that throughout the season and it has worked for us because we have managed to kill off the games early. It’s something that we really, really need to continue doing this game.”