South Africa's Sundowns Look To Wrap Up First Champions League Title
Mamelodi Sundowns will look to wrap up their first CAF Champions League title when they take on Zamalek in the return leg of the final, set to be hosted at the Borg El-Arab Stadium outside of Alexandria on Sunday evening.
The South Africans have one hand on the trophy after an emphatic 3-0 win over the Egyptians in the first leg in Tshwane last Saturday, with strikes from Anthony Laffor, Tebogo Langerman and an own goal from Islam Gamal giving them a healthy advantage to take to North Africa.
‘Downs should have no fear of playing the White Knights away, having already beaten them 2-1 at the Petro Sport Stadium in Cairo back in July as part of the group stage of the competition. Yet with the prospect of their first African championship on the line, the stakes are significantly higher for Sundowns this time around.
The Brazilians will also have to cope without Wayne Arendse, who was cautioned in the first leg and has been suspended for accumulation of yellow cards, but otherwise they should be able to select much the same team that did duty last weekend.
Coach Pitso Mosimane is confident that his side will be crowned African champions in Alexandria on Sunday night, but has cautioned that they must not underestimate Zamalek – especially on Egyptian soil.
“We need to keep feet on the ground … Zamalek scored four against Wydad in Alexandria [in the semifinal]. If we don’t think they can score four against us then we’ll be fooling ourselves,” ‘Jingles’ told SuperSport after the match.
The former Bafana Bafana coach added, “We will play the same way we played them in Egypt and that’s it guys, we’ve got the specimen which they can’t deal with. I mean we scored two there, we scored one here [in the group stage], we scored three here [in the final], they don’t have the specimen for us.”
Meanwhile, Zamalek coach Momen Soliman has admitted that his side faces a tough ask in trying to turn the tie in their favour, but promises that ‘Downs will be made to sweat in the return game in Egypt.
“Sundowns, you will have a very hard day in Alexandria next week. We faced one of our worst days in Morocco against Wydad, and they will have worse than that,” said Soliman in the wake of the 3-0 defeat.
“This is one of my toughest situations I have faced in my life, but we still have another game in Egypt.”
History is not on Zamalek’s side, as no team has overturned a deficit of two goals or more to win the final in the Champions League era (1997 onwards), while in the history of the competition only once has a team recovered from a 3-0 defeat in the first leg and gone on to claim the trophy (MC Alger in 1976).