Mabunda banking on the trick up Pitso’s sleeve

JOHANNESBURG –  African Club of the Century Al Ahly will be making its trip to South Africa this weekend to face Mamelodi Sundowns in the first leg of the Caf Champions League’s quarter-final, hoping to continue with their dominance over the PSL teams.

But Sundowns’ midfielder Tiyani Mabunda is banking on coach Pitso Mosimane to have a trick up his sleeve for the Egyptians. In 2001 and 2013, Al Ahly deprived Sundowns and Orlando Pirates the African triumph when they defeated them in Champions League finals, and in 2002, the Egyptians beat Kaizer Chiefs in the Caf Super Cup.

“We know that it won’t be a walk in the park, but we know the coach has a plan for every single team that we play," Mabunda said. "We trust his judgment and he know our abilities and strengths. On any day when he picks somebody from the squad, we know we are going to have a good game.”

Rewind back to 2016 – Mosimane was the trump card that finally led Sundowns to their first triumph of Africa’s premier club competition.

In the first leg of the final against Zamalek Mosimane staged a mastermind attacking game-plan that gave them three goals and a clean sheet before finishing off the job in Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, with a narrow 1-0 loss.

The Brazilians had two-weeks preparation for that game, but for this season’s last-eight, they’ve got merely four days considering that they had an PSL clash against Orlando Pirates on Monday.

109186011 - Mabunda banking on the trick up Pitso's sleeve
Back in 2016 Pitso Mosimane was the trump card that led Sundowns to their first Caf triumph. Photo: Thabang Lepule/BackpagePix

Mabunda though, stresses that their league clash with Pirates was a befitting curtain raiser for continental football as they’ll seamlessly divert attention.

“The game against Pirates was very important for us. I am grateful that we got to face a team like Pirates before Al Ahly, because it gave us a taste of what we are going to face on Saturday,” he said. “The team is ready and we are looking forward to the weekend. We know how to switch our focus to the Champions League. We’ve been through these kinds of situations for many years and they’ve been working for us.”

“Sugar” played a major role in both legs of the final of their African triumph.

The Brazilians will be hoping to begin this knockout stage on a high note, sending a strong message to their counterparts that their target finish in the competition is a top-two. A feat that will be welcomed even by the senior national team leading up to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The 30-year-old footballer is convinced that if they follow Mosimane’s instructions, there’ll be no one stopping them.

“I’ve learnt to trust Mosimane’s judgment, and the way he wants me to play. He sees things before we see them. I’ve also learnt that sometimes even if we are not comfortable with the way we have to play, the results are pleasant,” he said.


The Star

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