/ 11 March 2009

Sundowns look to Confed Cup for salvation

Mamelodi Sundowns are in the dark and do not know what to expect when they meet Phoenix at the Sir Gaetan Duval Stadium in Mauritius on Sunday in their African Confederations Cup first round, first-leg showdown.

But the big spending Brazilians are not expecting a walk in the park.

Downs could be without their injured star striker Sibusiso Zulu but coach Henri Michel is likely to take a strong squad to Port Louis.

Downs are still in with a chance of winning the Absa Premiership although they are eight points behind leaders SuperSport United and are through to the second round of the Nedbank Cup. But they have lacked consistency this season and the Confederation Cup could be their salvation.

Said Downs spokesperson Mahlatse Mphahlele: ”Every competition is important to Sundowns. We will not be taking a second-string team to Mauritius. It will be up to the coach which players travel but it will be a powerful squad as we want to do well and win this competition. We are not taking chances or going to underestimate the Mauritian opposition.”

It has been a season of mixed fortunes for the big spending Brazilians.

”We do not see the Confederations Cup as a distraction. We are still involved in three major competitions and we have the depth to go all the way. The league is still open, but the coach said his main focus would be the next game. That means Phoenix will be his main priority and after we return home, he will be back trying to outsmart United for the league title,” said Mphahlele

Michel has watched SuperSport beat Mauritius champions Curepipe in the Champions League recently and the former French and Côte d’Ivoire national coach must be confident of beating the second best team on the small island. United scored an easy 8-2 aggregate win in their Champions League first round tie.

Michel needs to finish off Phoenix in their backyard and turn the second leg at home in two weeks into a formality.

The experience of Surprise Moriri, Benedict Vilakazi, Katlego Mphela, Robyn Johannes, Esrom Nyandoro, Siboniso Gaxa and Bafana goalkeeper Calvin Marlin gives Downs the experience and skill to beat the unknown Phoenix. – Sapa