It’s not often you hear Mamelodi Sundowns coaches stress how tough a team is, but that’s the pedestal on which Rulani Mokwena has placed Sudanese side Al-Merreikh for their group stage match in the Café Champions League this Saturday.
The match will be played in Cairo, Egypt, at the Al Salam Stadium, as the Sudanese have political unrest in their home country and in any case their home location does not meet Caf’s requirements.
“The disruption of the Sudanese league makes it difficult to get updated match footage, but the good thing is that not much has changed from the footage we received. We’ve played their last four games and they have the same kind of profile,” Mokwena said.
“It’s a very difficult team with … individuals who are technically very good. They can manipulate the game and create opportunities to threaten your defenses. They make very aggressive runs in the penalty area and play with a very attacking style. We know what we are up against, they are very physical and very aggressive in the duels with their counter pressure and they are dominant with their set pieces. This is a very difficult team to play,” he added.
The fact that the game will technically be an away game for both sides doesn’t really give Sundowns the edge, says Mokwena. Perhaps it would be a different ball game if this was at a time when the league has reached the knockout stage.
“It is still the group stages, both teams have a lot of experience in this space and they are consistent participants in the group stages and the ambitions and the goals set do not change whether we are at home or away. What is important is a clear understanding of how to bring out our best performances and once we can, we know we can handle a lot of things on the pitch,” said the Downs mentor.
Sundowns will face two different opponents in Egypt in the Champions League in a week, with Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly lurking next weekend.