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Early points will be key for Downs

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Mosimane would have dug up enough information on the Nigerian side that he probably knows their star player’s blood type, such is the usual thoroughness of his preparation

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES: Gaston Sirino is just one of Mamelodi Sundowns small but mobile players who coach Pitso Mosimane hopes will be able to outmanoeuvre their bigger, stronger Nigerian opponents, when Sundowns clash with Lobi Stars in Enugu tonight at 67pm. Picture: Samuel Shivambu

PITSO Mosimane has already done the maths in terms of what it will take for his Mamelodi Sundowns team to advance to the knockout stage of the CAF Champions League.

Jingles is targeting winning all Sundowns’ home matches and at least drawing two of the three away matches to get 11 points. The first of those away matches is against Nigeria’s Lobi Stars in Enugu tonight at 6pm.

The Nigerian side doesn’t have much pedigree in continental football compared to their opponents who won the Champions League in 2016.

In fact, Stars are the “odd” one out in a group that features Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast who have all won the continent’s premier club competition.

“Lobi Stars, for me is a closed book. OK, we know about Lobi Stars as a team but I don’t remember looking at Lobi Stars as a team playing,” Mosimane said immediately after the draw. “I don’t see a lot (of) Nigerian football lately now that it’s no longer on our screens But you know Nigerian teams, they are very physical and are big boys. They’re strong. In fact everyone in our group (is physically strong).”

Between the draw and now, Mosimane would have dug up enough information on the Nigerian side that he probably knows their star player’s blood type, such is the usual thoroughness of his preparation.

Pace and skills

Sundowns counter their opponents’ physical strength with their pace and skills. Their pint-sized attackers, like Gaston Sirino, use trickery to beat giants who are twice their size. Those attributes will come in handy against the Nigerian side that hasn’t conceded a goal at home in their two Champions League matches.

“We need to look after set-pieces – corner kicks and free-kicks because we usually struggle with height and physique in that space,” Mosimane said. “You don’t want to have to compete physically with such opponents because South African players’ size isn’t the same as north and west Africans teams.

“We have two west African teams that we have to ensure that we beat at home.”

Mosimane’s three-win and two draw equation has also taken into consideration that they might struggle to beat Wydad, which is why he wants to ensure that by the time they visit Casablanca in their last group stage match qualification is already guaranteed.

That means picking at least four points from Stars with the Sundowns’ coach confident that they can collect six points from the Ivorians.

This campaign for the Brazilians is about reclaiming their place as one of the big boys in continental football after their poor showing last season, crashing out of what was an easy group. This one is slightly tougher and will test them.

But as we have seen before, such challenges bring out the best of Mosimane’s men.