Mamelodi Sundowns co-head coach Rulani Mokwena is wary of a ‘brave’ Swallows FC side with that ‘winning feeling,’ as the two teams lock horns in a top-of-the-table DStv Premiership clash at the Lucas Moripe Stadium today.
ALSO READ: Mashiane happy to help Kaizer Chiefs resurgence
The Birds have surprised as the closest challenges to defending champions Masandawana at this stage of the season, with the sides tied on 26 points from 12 games, two clear of third-placed SuperSport United.
Both teams have identical records, with seven wins and five draws, unbeaten in the 2020/21 campaign up to now.
“The opposition is good, they have the winning momentum. If you win in the NFD (Swallows won last season’s GladAfrica Championship) then you come to the PSL (Premiership) with that winning feeling. The experience of winning matches and trophies is important,” said Mokwekna, ahead of this afternoon’s match.
“We will have to play very well to win, we have to work extremely hard. Without playing well and being extremely strategic we know we have no chance,” he added.
“They have nothing to lose, that is why they play with so much freedom and bravery, and why the coach can make decisions that are … courageous.
“The team has a clear profile and a basic organisational structure – a 4-2-3-1 that transforms into 2-3-4-1, with aggressive wingers …. who are quick and able to get behind and deliver crosses. They have a strong and stable three in midfield, and inverted full backs, who are able to build up from the back, and centre backs … who are comfortable on the ball too.
“They invite you into situations, where if you jump in higher up the pitch, you run the risk of creating space for (Ruzaigh) Gamildien to punish you. We have to be careful.”
Gamildien has been the star in attack for Swallows this season, with nine goals in 12 matches, and will hope to capitalise on defensive absences for Sundowns, with Brian Onyango the latest to be ruled out with a thigh injury.
Sundowns also need to improve an attack that has drawn a blank in successive goalless draws with SuperSport United and Bloemfontein Celtic.
“Without key players, preparation has been tough,” added Mokwena.
“We have got enough within the squad but we are a bit thin with regard to our defensive line. We are without (Ricardo) Nascimento, (Lyle) Lakay (Bangaly) Soumahoro, and (Khuliso) Mudau for medical reasons. Then with have a huge blow … losing Onyango. It sets us back and we will have to see how we improvise … but we will find solutions. We have enough in the team to know how to adapt.”