Downs in a difficult spot
Affluent Mamelodi Sundowns, generally a club with a surplus of talent, find themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea with a dearth of players for Saturday’s first-leg CAF Confederation Cup tie against Egypt’s Haras el-Hadoud at the Super Stadium.
The problem for the Brazilians, who have acquired an impressive array of 10 new players for the coming season, is that the newcomers are not registered for the Confederation Cup at this juncture. High-profile reinforcements such as Sibusiso Zuma, Katlego Mphela and Thando Mngomeni must sit out on the touchline watching their teammates trying to make progress in the CAF event.
And, to compound the problem, Sundowns have already off-loaded a variety of formidable players from last season’s squad, such as Godfrey Sapula, Brent Carelse, Oscar Ntwagae, Patrick Apataki and Tyren Arendse.
With deposed Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Calvin Marlin still recovering from an injury incurred last season in a Nedbank Cup game against Kaizer Chiefs, Sundowns have a complement of a mere 17 players to choose from for the el-Hadoud game.
Teams who fail to reach the round-robin stage of CAF’s premier club event, the Champions League, are automatically billeted into the Confederation Cup’s fourth-round draw—with Platinum Stars in a similar situation to Sundowns after being shaded by Egypt’s Al Ahly last season.
The Tycoons, as the club with links to the platinum industry are known, could hardly have been burdened with a worse assortment of unenviable draws by CAF.
After facing Africa’s “Team of the Century” in the Champions League, they now find themselves little better off against Tunisia’s former African champions, FC Sfaxien, in the first-leg Confederation Cup clash at Olympia Park in Rustenburg on Sunday afternoon.
Sundowns, in particular, are intent on achieving success in African competitions and will be better placed to achieve this in the Confederation Cup if they are able to overcome the invariably difficult Egyptians at the first hurdle.
And while they appear in a more inviting situation than Stars to enter the Confederation Cup’s round-robin stage, the overall thoroughness of Egyptian teams should leave them with no illusions of the task at hand.—Sapa