While France were dancing around in Moscow, showing off their shiny 2018 Fifa World Cup trophy, Mamelodi Sundowns were in Togo, getting themselves ready for the resumption of the 2018 Caf Champions League.
Masandawana have played so much football over the past few years that it was hardly surprising to hear coach Pitso Mosimane talking of taking a sabbatical after the Premier Soccer League awards in May. Still, at least they had most of the month off, with Mosimane taking a trip to Russia and to spend time in the SuperSport studios as a pundit.
The players should be fresh, too, heading into the game against AS Port-Togo, and it will be interesting to see how they perform in their Group C match today, especially without Khama Billiat, who has moved to Kaizer Chiefs, and Percy Tau, who is reportedly on the brink of a move to Brighton in England, though the deal was, at the time of writing, taking an inordinate amount of time to go through.
This could be the game, of course, where Andile Jali makes his debut, and it will be fascinating to see, whether it is today or in a future game, how the Bafana Bafana midfielder slots into the team. They could do with a win in today’s game after their patchy start to their Group C campaign, with two points from two games played.
It will also be interesting to see how Sundowns’ African crusade affects them in their defence of the Absa Premiership title. Sundowns, it must be remembered, have never successfully defended a league title under Mosimane, and their trip all the way to glory in 2016 certainly affected them as Bidvest Wits took the Premiership in the 2016/17 campaign.
Sundowns also face a double whammy in Champions League terms this season, with the 2018/19 Champions League set to start in November, with the Confederation of African Football shifting their calendar.
This should, in the long term, help South African sides on the continent, as it moves more in line with the PSL season, so clubs do not lose too many players to transfers during a Champions League. However, this year’s doubling up could leave Masandawana on their knees by the time the home straight of the domestic title race comes into play.
If there is a squad in South Africa that can cope with the hectic schedule, however, it is Sundowns, backed by Patrice Motsepe’s lavish spending. Expect more players to come in before this transfer window closes, and another spending spree in January.
In the meantime, stalwarts like Anthony Laffor will have to help Sundowns, and the Liberian forward, who remains at Choorklop despite constant speculation about his departure, talks about the Champions League on the opposite page.
We also have all the latest on Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates’ pre-season preparations, with both Amakhosi and the Buccaneers no doubt with their eyes on Sundowns’ crown.
Pirates certainly look to have the squad to mount a challenge, though it remains to be seen how their participation in the Champions League at the end of the year has an effect on their own aspirations.
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