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Home form is the key for Pitso’s Sundowns

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The Brazilians are masterful on their own pitch, in front of their yellow-clad cheering fans

MAMELODI Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is banking on the club’s good home record to take them far in the CAF Champions League.

The Brazilians have won all their home games in a tough group that included Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Algeria’s USM Alger and Angola’s Petro de Luanda.

The Tshwane side also won their preliminary and first-round matches in Pretoria to get to the group stage.

Sundowns’ title in the 2016 edition was built on a good home record where they scored two goals or more in all their home games and Mosimane is hoping for a repeat of that after becoming the first South African side to finish the group stage unbeaten.

But the Tshwane side will face a tough challenge in the quarter-finals where they will face either Zamalek, Al-Ahly or Raja Casablanca, who all finished second in their groups.

The draw for the quarter-finals will be conducted in Egypt on Wednesday with the matches to be played on the last weekend of February and the first weekend of March.

“It’s either you are going to play Zamalek, Raja or somebody will come from the Al-Ahly and Al-Hilal group (Al-Ahly),” Mosimane said.

“If you go away, you don’t lose, then you sort it out here. If you score away, much better. But here, you know the story. Here it’s very difficult for anybody to come here and walk here.

“As much as we respect (TP) Mazembe, Esperance and whoever, they also know how difficult it is here.

Not easy

“As much as we say that it’s not easy to go to Tunis, Lubumbashi and Cairo, can somebody say, ‘we want to go to Pretoria’? You should be very brave to say that because sometimes you don’t find the ball here, you get lost.”

As much as Sundowns will be up against tough opponents in the quarter-finals, they will also be viewed as a tough challenge with how they have grown in the Champions League in the last five years.

Since winning the Champions League in 2016 they have been in the group stage of every edition and missed out on the knockout stage just once.

They have also handed Zamalek and Al-Ahly some heavy defeats that their fans are still taunted by even to this day.

“Playing the group stage without a loss is good, it gives you bragging rights but it affects us on the league,” Mosimane said.

“You can’t have the cake and eat it because you are managing this and that, it’s a problem.

“But it’s important for Sundowns to grow as a brand. We are growing slowly. We are coming and we understand how to play north Africans. We played USM Alger here and they never touched the ball. We played Petro and they never found the ball.

“At least WAC (Wydad Athletic Club) had more resistance out of the three teams that came here, and we respect that.

“It’s good to send a message that when you come to Pretoria, it’s a different game. It’s a totally different game to the one we played in Casablanca. We didn’t have the ball like we did here.

“WAC has a lot of supporters and they create a lot of noise and pressure. They drive the team.

“That’s another factor of playing home and away.”