Sundowns eyeing top spot in Champions League

Thabo Nthethe is wary of Zamalek’s threat. Picture: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA
Thabo Nthethe is wary of Zamalek’s threat. Picture: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

Brazilians eager to impress since being readmitted to the Champions League

From the back door to the front door in style!

This is the success story of Mamelodi Sundowns in the CAF Champions League campaign so far.

The Brazilians are riding the crest of the wave since being reinstated in the tournament following AS Vita’s disqualification.

Downs were dumped from the tournament earlier this year, but found their way back through the back door and have not looked back since.

Now, after two games, the Brazilians have one foot in the door on their way to the semifinals following their 2-1 victory over Zamalek in Egypt last weekend. They also beat Enyimba by the same score last month.

That is an impressive show of form a mere three months after being eliminated from the competition.

They would have been on nine points had ES Sétif of Algeria not been disqualified following crowd violence during their game against Sundowns, which the South Africans were leading 2-0 in the referee’s optional time.

The six points that the Brazilians have amassed so far could still be enough to book them a place in the semis, but they want to do it in style.

The group-topping Sundowns only need a draw against Zamalek in the return leg match at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on Wednesday to confirm their place in the semifinals as the outright winners of the three-team group. Kickoff is at 7.30pm.

They will travel to Nigeria for their last game and will want to go there with their spot in the semis already secured.

Ending the group stages at the summit of the group is the Brazilians’ target as it would mean playing a second-placed club in Group A.

They face the wounded Zamalek, who want to avenge last weekend’s defeat and even the score.

Both sides are poised to qualify for the semis, that is unless Enyimba wins their remaining two games.

Stand-in captain Thabo Nthethe said they were bracing themselves for a backlash and expected Zamalek to come out with guns blazing.

Nthethe vowed they would not allow the Egyptians to beat them in front of their supporters.

“We know what to expect from them. They will come at us because of what we did to them last week but we will be ready for them,” said Nthethe.

He said they would guard against complacency on Wednesday.

“We don’t want to be our own enemies and undermine them. They will come here on a mission to spoil our party. The fact that we beat them away doesn’t mean anything and this will be a completely new game in which we need to focus 100%.”

The good news is that Keagan Dolly, who is part of the national Under-23 squad selected for the Olympic Games in Rio, will be available for the game.

Sundowns have a good arsenal of weapons to overpower their north African opponents with young Percy Tau and Anthony Laffor – who started last weekend’s game after settling his dispute with the club – eager to impress.

Last weekend’s goal scorers, Tiyani Mabunda and Khama Billiat, will be closely watched by the Egyptians as they have proved to be dangerous.

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