Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is refusing to be deceived by reports that their Caf Champions League Group C opponents USM Alger's campaign could be derailed by financial constraints.
The Algerian giants are said to be close to bankruptcy following the jailing of club owner Ali Haddad in June and the club has on a number of occasions threatened to withdraw from the Champions League.
Mosimane is however not reading much into USM Alger's reported financial woes that have seen players reportedly protesting in recent weeks.
“I don’t buy that story that they have [financial] challenges," Mosimane was quoted as saying by Time Live.
"Until Caf confirms it [USM have threatened to withdraw] then that story doesn’t happen. When you play USM you are playing Al Ahly‚ you’re playing Wydad‚ you’re playing Esperance de Tunis.
"We’ve been in that space. We’ve played those clubs. We know the mood‚ the lasers‚ mentality‚ the hostility. The last time we were in Algeria we nearly didn’t finish the match against ES Setif [in 2016]‚ and we were taken out of the pitch by police.
“The flares‚ the noise‚ the referee under pressure‚ the players in the referee’s face at half time. Decisions might go against you; not because the referee is cheating‚ but because of pressure."
Sundowns open their group stage campaign against Angolan giants Petro Atletico on November 29 and they will also face Wydad Casablanca in another Group C showdown.
In the past three seasons, Mosimane's side has established some fierce rivalry with Wydad Casablanca whom they have met eight times within that period, winning two matches, drawing twice and losing four times.
The two sides have already met four times this year alone with the Moroccans eliminating Sundowns at the semi-final stage last season.
“And then there is [Wydad] Casa. But we are improving [against Wydad]. We always lose 1-0‚ 1-0 – last time we lost 2-1‚ and at least we scored in Morocco. We only failed to score one goal at home‚ or we could have gone to the final. They are not comfortable against us‚ because 1-0 at some stage has to turn around," said Mosimane.
The Downs coach has set his sight on topping Group C to avoid meeting heavyweights in the quarter-finals.
“And in the last-eight you know who you are going to find. If you finish top of your group you are going to avoid TP Mazembe‚ Wydad‚ Esperance and Al Ahly," he said.
“So it’s important to be top of your group. Last year we wanted to finish top to avoid Al Ahly‚ but it was a different story with them in the quarterfinals."
The Brazilians, however, mauled Al Ahly 5-0 at home in the last eight, before losing 1-0 away.