At this point, nobody is sure if Themba Zwane will be available for selection on Saturday when Mamelodi Sundowns take on Al Ahly in the do-or-die Caf Champions League quarterfinal tie.
The second-leg will be a pressure cooker for Masandawana who left the Cairo International Stadium with their tails between their legs after losing 2-0 to the Red Devils.
While Zwane’s fitness is still in question as he picked up a knock a fortnight ago in the DStv Premiership tie against Maritzburg United, we look at other players who can influence the tie in Sundowns’ favour:
Even though he did not play the full game in the first-leg as he was reduced to a deep-lying midfielder instead of displaying the attacking prowess that he is known for, Sirino is always a player Sundowns can bank on, especially in matches where they need the results. Playing at home is a big advantage for players like Sirino as Al-Ahly may deploy defensive tactics, playing into the hands of the attack-minded Sundowns.
It takes a lot for coaches to decide to bench their captain in favour of a youngster but Mkhulise left Manqoba Mngqithi and company with no choice but to field him instead of skipper Hlompho Kekana for most of this season. Mkhulise is a typical No.8, one with some defensive capabilities and knows how to control the tempo of the game while instigating moves forward. Sundowns being a ball playing team that usually builds up from the back, Mkhulise will come in handy when they need him to be the bridge between the defence and attack.
The 29-year-old wingback has started on the bench in the last four outings as the mentors have selected Aubrey Modiba ahead of him. Modiba, however, has not given much to Sundowns while Lakay has been an impact player off the bench. He has a gorgeous left foot which has saved Downs a couple of times this season. He is slowly becoming a dead ball specialist and the go-to guy when it comes to freekicks. A game like this is most likely to see the Red Devils committing fouls in appetizing areas where Lakay finds much joy.
You cannot speak about the Brazilians and not mention Shalulile. He is increasingly becoming one of those players that no matter which team you support, you just cannot hate him. Downs are expected to run riots against the defending champions and Shalulile will lead the attack with his bolting speed and battery-powered energy. In some superstitious reasoning, looking at the last four games, he has scored in one, misfired in the next and got back to form after. Since he did not find the back of the net in Cairo, Sundowns will be hoping that this pattern continues as they need the goals now more than ever.