“It looks like the pitch and environment in relation to the weather conditions will suit us perfectly.” – Rhulani Mokwena
MAMELODI Sundowns have arrived well-ahead of Saturday’s match against TP Mazembe, the Democratic Republic of Congo champions, and have set out their stall in anticipation of a tough encounter against the five-time Champions League winners.
After an early morning flight on Wednesday from Johannesburg, the team touched down in the DRC four hours later. Co-coach Rhulani Mokwena said that after lunch, the squad went to the match venue, Stade TP Mazembe, in Lubumbashi.
“The travel was OK, pretty decent in fact,” said Mokwena on arrival in Lubumbashi. “The team woke up early for the 8am flight, and after an hour’s break for lunch, we had a look at the match venue.
“It looks like the pitch and environment in relation to the weather conditions will suit us perfectly.
“It was overcast, and there were a few light showers. We are expecting extreme conditions with high heat on Saturday.”
Hosts TP Mazembe have yet to win a Champions League Group B match this season. After two rounds, the team has two goalless draws on its record. Sundowns, in comparison, have two wins and head up Group B standings.
A Sundowns win on Saturday will see the team secure a place in the quarter-finals. The other two Group B teams Al Hilal and Belouizdad have a solitary point each after two rounds.
Mokwena said the team will use the time to acclimatize and shake off the effects of frequent travelling.
“We will do some rehab work as well as injury-prevention conditioning,” said Mokwena. “We are at that stage of the season where the major muscle groups need looking after because of all the travelling we do.
“On flights we sit for two to three hours and then for an hour on a bus trip, and the muscles are dormant. We try to prepare the body for proper training and ensure that we are in a good position not to pick up injuries.”
Rhulani fears that TP Mazembe will be driven by desperation, more so after a post on the club’s website said the team must defeat Sundowns tomorrow as well as in the return match in Johannesburg if they wanted to keep their hopes alive.
“They (TP Mazembe) need the three points more than us so it will be interesting to see what their approach will be,” said Rhulani.
“We looked at videos of their previous matches, and we know we must prepare for a team that has got very complex personalities. They are very aggressive.
“As we prepare for the match, we will have to be tactically activated.
“They are a team that push wingers and full-backs very high for overlapping situations. They can also be very conservative, sit in a block and play on the counter-attack.
“They have fast players up front.”
What could work in Sundowns favour is the fact that there will be no spectators at the 18,000-seater stadium on Saturday.