Sundowns Aim To Bounce Back
AS Vita Club have carried a burning desire for revenge against Mamelodi Sundowns, and when the Tshwane Giants visit them in the cauldron that is the 80000 seater Stade des Martyrs la Pentecote in Kinshasha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this CAF Champions League clash has the promise of a great clash in which the Defending champions aim to bounce back.
Last year, the DRC club were kicked out of the CCL for fielding an ineligible player. They had edged the Brazilians on goal difference to boot them out, but the Tshwane side was reinstated and went on to annex the Champions League.
The two sides have met four times, with Sundowns winning 2-1, then losing 1-0 and 1-0 and one game ending in a 2-2 draw. These statistics do not auger well for the Brazilians.
And, playing in an intimidating venue, they know that they will have to summon all their resourcefulness to win. But the champions have played in such venues, and if they could survive and win in Egypt, then they can survive and win in the DRC.
Sundowns have also lived the experience of playing on the continent. They have been to the DRC. They have been to other countries and played in various environments. They are not afraid.
Vita Club have had a mixed bag of results in recent times. They have won two of their last five, including a 1-0 victory over giants TP Mazembe, who Sundowns beat in the CAF Super Cup. They are third on their domestic league log, and in their first Group CAF game, lost 3-1 to ES Tunis.
Sundowns will be a lot more confident going into this game. They want to emulate Al Ahly, TP Mazembe and Enyimba who have won back to back Champion League titles. But whether they will have the legs to carry them through two seasons without a break remains to be seen. They have played 57 games without a break, and this has become evident from their lethargic display in the domestic league, relinquishing their league title to Bidvest Wits.
The Brazilians have drawn four of their last five games and won one. Among the draws was a goalless draw against Ethiopian champions St George. They have been inconsistent in their goal scoring, and conceding goals unlike the side that boasts having conceded the fewest goals in their league campaign.
Much of this could be attributed to the loss to injury of Wayne Arendse and Ricardo Nascimento. Nascimento has scored two of the four goals scored by the Brazilians against Vita Club, the other two coming from Anthony Laffor and Soumahoro Bangaly.
Contests like the Champions League are won on winning your home games and keeping it tight and avoiding conceding away. This will have to be Sundowns approach to move up from the third position on the Group log, just above Vita.
Coach Pitso Mosimane will be pleased with the form of Ivorian Yannick Zakri, who has scored in the last three games after struggling since his arrival. This will go a long way to relieving Percy Tau and Khama Billiat. They need to go all out for victory, but know that scoring against Vita is not easy.
The champions next meet ES Tunis at home on June 2, and on June 26 away, St George away on July 1 and Vita Club home six days later.