MAMELODI Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs have experienced contrasting fortunes in the Champions League this season, but they are both aware of how invaluable three points could be in the penultimate round of group stage matches.
Sundowns have already qualified for the quarter-finals of the Pan-African competition after a perfect record in Group B. They’ve beaten Al Hilal of Sudan, CR Belouizdad of Algeria and TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Their 12-point tally came after back-to-back wins against TP Mazembe. However, after the two-week international break, which broke the hearts of the South Africans after Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, Sundowns are hoping to avenge the country’s defeat.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Brazilians face Al Hilal, a team that hails from Sudan – the country which beat Bafana to deny them that ticket to Afcon in Cameroon next year – at Al-Hilal Stadium.
“The game against Al Hilal is very important for us,” co-coach Rhulani Mokwena said. “But it’s even more important for us as a country, particularly for what happened in the last few days. We are bruised. We are slightly deflated from a football perspective.
“Of course, we are a footballing nation, you expect happiness to be great. But we are a bit affected by our national team after we were not able to qualify for Afcon. The pain was generally, greatly, inflicted by the Sudanese national team.”
Unlike Sundowns, Chiefs do not have intentions of doing the work for SA. Instead, they have to think about themselves as they are in a tricky third spot in Group C with five points, level with second placed Horoya and five behind leaders Wydad AC.
This is Chiefs’ first time in the group stage of the continental showpiece. And they’ve blown hot and cold, after managing one win against Petro de Luanda, two draws against Horoya and a defeat against two-time champions Wydad.
However, they’ll host Wydad at FNB Stadium on Saturday, hoping to keep their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time alive. Chiefs, though, are high on morale after defeating local rivals Orlando Pirates before the international break.
Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, who is enjoying an exceptional season, despite Amakhosi languishing in the bottom half of the Premiership standings, says they know what to expect against the Moroccan giants.
“Obviously, they are a good team. We need to prepare well for them but I am confident that we can beat them,” Ngcobo said.
“They capitalised on the chances that they got. We were punished for the mistakes that we made on the day.
“We still have a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals but we need to win our last two matches and then we’ll be fine.”