CAF Champions League

Mamelodi Sundowns v AS Togo-Port Preview | Friday 27 July | Loftus Versfeld Stadium | 21:00

This is a do or die clash for Sundowns as they’re on the brink of CAF Champions League elimination after failing to win any of their three opening group stage fixtures, making every remaining game a must-win. The Brazilians, who have collected two points so far, are rooted to the foot of the table and they’re three points adrift of top-placed Wydad Casablanca and Horoya AC.

Pitso Mosimane’s men played superbly in the first leg against Togo-Port but finding the back of the net was their main problem. This time, they’ll bank on home ground advantage and the fact that Jeremy Brockie and Themba Zwane found their scoring boots in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup against Kaizer Chiefs last Saturday.

To Win
Sundowns 6/10
Draw 5/2
Togo-Port 9/2

Mamelodi Sundowns

Th Brazilians fielded a weakened side against Kaizer Chiefs in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup last Saturday but they still managed to record a comfortable victory. Sphelele Mkhulise impressed on debut to Mosimane’s delight and he eulogised his performance after the game. We also saw new signing, Lyle Lakay, who was used as a winger by Cape Town City operating at left-back. Jeremy Brockie finally got his first goal for Sundowns which will be a huge morale booster. A confident Brockie’s presence is vital as we saw how wasteful Thokozani Sekotlong was when he came on as a substitute against Togo-Port. Sibusiso Vilakazi has also been too inconsistent but when he’s on song, he’s unplayable.

In the Champions League, Mosimane’s men haven’t been convincing as they’re winless in their opening three fixtures. They shared the spoils with both Horoya and Wydad Casablanca, and they lost to the weakest team in the group, Togo-Port. In the defeat at Togo last week, Andile Jali made his debut alongside Zwane, Oupa Manyisa and Hlompho Kekana in the middle of the park. It shall be interesting to see how they line up when Tiyani Mabunda returns from injury. Another source of much intrigue is whether Pitso fields the players that were rested on the weekend or sticks with the “fringe” players who impressed against Amakhosi.

The only thing the team should worry about is their shaky defence which has been found wanting when they play against teams who are really going to test it. Over the last two matches, both goals conceded were a result of ball-watching by experienced defenders who also happen to lack pace, however, I’m expecting a better game from them this time as rustiness also played a role in their poor showing.

AS Togo-Port

Togo-Port didn’t play particularly well on their artificial pitch against Sundowns last week but they managed to grind out a 1-0 victory. They couldn’t deal with Sundowns’ menacing attacks and they must thank their opponents’ ineptitudes in front of goal for the victory. This was their first win of the group stage as they lost the other two matches. This time, they’ll have influential skipper Issifou Bourahana‚ who was suspended for the first leg clash.

One must also bear in mind that the team has recently parted ways with highly-rated centre-back, Hakim Ouro-Sama, who has been snapped up by French Ligue 1 club, Lille, on a five-year contract.

In terms of the attack, they have a smart forward in Ayi Hunlede who scored the winner the last time out and his link up play with teenage midfielder Fousseni Yacoubou can cause Sundowns some serious problems.

Togo-Port are a very dangerous underdogs that have knocked teams like AC Leopards and Al-Hilal out of this very tournament and they can never be underestimated despite having a poor record away from home.

This is the first time they’re competing in the CAF Champions League after winning their maiden Togo Premier Division title in the 2016/17 season but they’ve featured twice in the Confederations Cup where they got knocked out in the preliminary stage on both occasions.

Probable line-ups:

Mamelodi Sundowns: 4-4-1-1
Onyango; Morena, Nascimento, Arendse, Langerman; Mabunda, Kekana, Manyisa, Zwane; Sirino; Vilakazi.

Togo-Port: 3-5-2
Klomegan; Bourahana‚ Kove, Djadja; Bode, Yacoubou, Novon, Sangare, Ibrahim; Hunlede, Sewonou.

Prediction: Mamelodi Sundowns (6/10)
The Brazilians were wasteful in front of goal at Togo but they showed some signs of sharpness against Kaizer Chiefs in a glorified pre-season friendly where they comfortably lifted the inaugural Shell Helix Ultra Cup. Togo-Port’s poor away form despite having a formidable home record is well documented hence why I’m expecting them to suffer. My money is on Mosimane’s men to record a convincing win.

Benedict Ngwenya

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