Thu. Jul 16th, 2020

The December gauntlet will be key to Mamelodi Sundowns season

The Champions League Group Stage, Telkom Knockout Final, and a smattering of PSL fixtures await Sundowns in December.

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The eight matches facing Mamelodi Sundowns before the end of the year will prove critical to their season.

Pitso Mosimane structured the club’s preseason with the goal of doing well in the Caf Champions League but the continental competition brings its competitors significant scheduling challenges.

Sundowns squad depth and fitness will be tested in the coming weeks with matches coming thick and fast.

Currently second in the Premiership, Sundowns cannot win the Premiership in December but if the Champions League affects their PSL form they might lose touch with pace-setting Kaizer Chiefs.

Sundowns host struggling Amazulu in midweek before kicking off their Caf Champions League Group stage campaign against Angolan club Atlético Petróleos de Luanda on Saturday 30 November. Petro de Luanda are current second in Girabola and have won their last six matches in all competitions. The Angolans were scheduled to meet CRD Libolo this week but the match was postponed by the league.

Downs have not been afforded any such leeway from the PSL and despite competing across multiple fronts, reaching the MTN 8 semi-finals and the Telkom Knockout final, the club have just one game in hand on league leaders Kaizer Chiefs.

Wydad vs Sundowns – a growing rivalry

Sundowns second matchday in Group C of the Caf Champions League is a date with a club with whom they have a growing rivalry, Wydad Casablanca.

The Morrocan club knocked Sundowns out of the competition in the semi-finals and Mosimane had plenty to say about the gamesmanship of the continental powerhouse.

That match takes place on 7 December and unless the PSL see fit to postpone the fixture, Sundowns will have just four days to return from Morocco and travel to the Western Cape to face Stellenbosch FC on 11 December.

Three days after facing the Premiership newcomers Sundowns will contest the Telkom Knockout final at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Winning the tournament would be a bonus for Downs but a club of their stature should only be satisfied with league triumph and continental success.

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Mauricio Affonso of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2019 Telkom Knockout Last 16 match between Mamelodi Sundowns and AmaZulu at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Pretoria, on 20 October 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Mauricio Affonso has given Sundowns the ability to be more direct and as such should play a big role in the club’s Champions League and Cup commitments, while some of the club’s PSL fixtures should allow Mosimane to give the fans a little bit of shoe shine and piano.

Mosimane will hope to be able to ease Oupa Manyisa, Anthony Laffor, Lucky Mohomi and Phakamani Mahlambi back into action as they come back from injuries.

Bafana Bafana playmaker Themba Zwane’s creative influence was missed against Arrows but he too should return to action in December.

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Themba Zwane of Sundowns celebrates goal during the Absa Premiership 2019/20 football match between Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Pretoria on 03 August 2019 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

After the TKO final Sundowns have two PSL matches before Christmas, the first of which is a trip to Braampark to face Wits. On 21 December they host Polowane City.

Rounding out the year with Champions League action

Sundowns final match of 2019 will be their third Caf Champions League group stage engagement against USM Alger in Algiers, Algeria on 27 December. The Algerian Champions were Champions League runners-up in 2015 and will pose a real test to Downs in a tough group.

Just like the league, Sundowns cannot win the Champions League in December but a poor showing would leave them playing catch-up.

Mosimane’s men have been able to rise to these sorts of challenges before and the challenges like the December programme is what the Sundowns squad has been assembled to deal with. 

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