After the disappointment of Mamelodi Sundowns’ recent domestic defeat to Cape Town City which saw them surrender top spot, for the time being, the Tshwane giants now take aim at Nigeria’s Lobi Stars in the Caf Champions League.
Sundowns have been playing a juggling act over the past three or four seasons as they look to dominate African football, and when they host the Nigerians on Saturday, the focus will need to be firmly on their opponents with so much at stake.
Victory against Lobi Stars would ensure that Sundowns do not travel to Casablanca for their final game against Wydad looking for three points, but beating Ortom Boys won’t be easy.
Sundowns learned this the hard way as they opened their group stage campaign with a 2-1 defeat to the Ortom Boys away from home.
One of Sundowns’ biggest issues from their previous meeting was complacency.
In a group which consisted of two other former Champions League winners in Wydad and Asec Mimosas, Lobi Stars were expected to be the easiest game of the lot but this was not true as Sundowns were brought back down to earth.
However, that does not mean that Lobi Stars are impenetrable, on the day, Sundowns fluffed several goal-scoring chances something which fans have worryingly become accustomed to witnessing from the 2016 African champions this season.
Sundowns need to get this right as goals win games. Lobi Stars have also conceded seven goals in the tournament so far which does indicate their fragility at the back, and also the fact that the game is in Tshwane works firmly in the home teams’ favour.
Lobi Stars have not won any of their games away from home, losing four and drawing one which includes their games in the preliminary round.
This is worrying for the Nigerians, but also suggests that Sundowns have a real chance, but only if they are willing to take them.
Aside from the fact that Sundowns need goals, it is also at the back where they will need to maintain a sturdy display.
Sundowns boast a relatively impressive record having only conceded five goals in the competition, but it is how they have conceded that should worry Mosimane and his technical team.
On average Sundowns are most vulnerable around the 35th mark in continental games which indicate that it is usually down to a lapse in concentration.
That is why it is important that whomsoever Mosimane favours as his centre-back pairing, they stay alert.
If they are able to remain compact at the back and lethal in attack, this will be a winning formula.