Johannesburg – If you have ever wondered what it takes to become continental champions, you dont have to look further than Mamelodi Sundowns hectic schedule.
Following their 1-0 loss to Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League Group C leaders Wydad Casablanca on Friday evening – a result that left them third with five points to second-placed Horoya FCs eight and the Moroccans 11 – the Brazilians have all to play for in their ultimate group-stage match (see log).
However, it is not as easy as that. Their troubles will be compounded by their hectic programme, which currently includes the Absa Premiership and the MTN8 on the domestic front.
Soon after returning home from north Africa, Bafana ba Style will be faced with a league engagement against newcomers Highlands Park at Loftus Stadium on Tuesday. Kickoff is at 19:30.
Then, on Saturday, they take that long-dreaded two-hour flight to Cape Town to face Cape Town City in an MTN8 semi-final first-leg that kicks off at 15:00.
The following Tuesday (August 28), they host Guinea side Horoya in a must-win Champions League 18:00 fixture.
And then, on September 2, they have the MTN8 semi-final return leg against City at Lucas Moripe Stadium (see MTN8 fixtures).
Downs will need to win their game against Horoya as they not only trail their next opponents by three points, but have a minus one goal difference.
However, the fact that the CAF considers head-to-head results ahead of goal difference puts them in good stead and could be the saving grace given that they held Horoya to a 2-all draw away in Guinea in May.
A win, no matter how many goals they score and concede, will see them through to the knockout stage on a head-to-head basis, but a draw or a loss will mean curtains on their campaign.
This scenario means that the wily Pitso Mosimane has his work cut out for him.
Speaking after his sides MTN8 quarter-final 2-0 victory over Lamontville Golden Arrows, Mosimane said: “Desperate to win the MTN8? I am not sure. But eager, yes. I would love to win it. I also want to win it with Sundowns because I have not won it with Sundowns.
“But this cup [MTN8] … we always have the Champions League semi-finals and quarter-finals in between.
“It does not give me happiness to play or not put the best team on the pitch that I think on the day is the best team.
“I play this week, I am playing another game next week.”
Another Champions League veteran, midfield kingpin Tiyani Mabunda observed before the match against Wydad: “As Mamelodi Sundowns, we understand the level of importance of todays game. We know that it is not going to be easy. Wydad have been a very good side throughout the competition – they are currently at the top and we know their way of thinking, especially when they play at home.
“We played with them before last season when they knocked us out and we understood it was not the same game we may have played at home.”
All this points to the fact that, despite facing a Herculean task, Mosimane and his charges know exactly what they are up against.
The teams that finish on top and second go through to the knockout stages.