Sundowns face tough AS Vita test

Leonardo Castro  of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates a goal with teammates. Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Leonardo Castro of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates a goal with teammates. Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns face arguably the biggest test of their season when they clash with the AS Vita club.

The Brazilians have already won the Telkom Knockout this season, are currently on track to win the Absa Premiership league title, and are still in with a decent shot at defending their Nedbank Cup trophy.

However, head coach Pitso Mosimane has made no secret that his desire to conquer Africa is his, and the club’s ultimate goal.

It’s a view shared by the players, centre-back Thabo Nthethe explaining to the club’s website how important continental glory is for a club spoilt for domestic success.

“Our ultimate aim is to get the star that would represent Champions of the tournament. It’s really exciting times to be part of this team that will leave a legacy of putting a star on the Sundowns jersey,” Nthete stated.

But to keep their dream of adding a star next to their club badge, like Orlando Pirates did after winning the 1995 Champions League, Sundowns must overturn a 1-0 first leg defeat after losing in Kinsasha on April 10.

The Pretoria-based outfit has already come from behind in this year’s competition, beating Zimbabwe side Chicken Inn 2-0 at home to secure a 2-1 aggregate win in the preliminary round.

Having eased through their first round tie with a 3-1 aggregate victory against AC Leopards, the Brazilians now once more find themselves with their backs to the wall as they prepare to take on a very useful looking AS Vita side in Attridgeville.

It’s a venue however where Downs are unbeaten in their last 13 games, having won 11 of those.

And defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele, recently back from injury, says it’s important for the Masandawana faithful to come out in their numbers on Wednesday to try and make it as intimidating as possible for an AS Vita team that enjoyed a 50 000 crowd for their home game.

“The Caf Champions League is the ultimate test for top clubs from Africa’s football leagues. These are exciting times of the season. We have done well so far and we intend to end the season having achieved all goals set,” he said, before rallying the fans:

“Keep attending matches at the stadium. We appreciate your presence and would like to thank you for your support. It’s vital to push to the last game and spurring us on to win.”

Aiding their cause is some positive team news for Sundowns. The mercurial Khama Billiat will be back for this game after missing the match in Kinshasa through suspension, and will be looking to renew his deadly partnership with Leonardo Castro and Keagan Dolly. (Both Castro and Billiat were on target in a 2-0 league win over Jomo Cosmos on the weekend).

It’s in defence though where the key to victory could lie. Sundowns are a team that appears to be scoring for fun this season. But they can ill afford to allow Vita to net an away goal, and will have to keep a very close eye on their dangerous Ghana-born striker, Bernard Morrison.

In this respect, the possible return from injury of Downs’ number one goalkeeper, Denis Onyango, could provide the South African side with another significant boost, the Ugandan shot-stopper said to be in with a decent chance at making the game.

Wednesday night’s match in Tshwane is set to kick off at 7.30pm.

Sundowns are in action just three days later when they meet Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup last eight.

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