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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Mashego backs Sundowns to reach Champions League final

The Brazilians lost 1-0 to Esperance in the first leg in Tunisia.

Former Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mashego reckons the current team needs to overcome the mental hurdle of the congested fixture schedule ahead of the second leg of the Caf Champions League semifinal against Esperance.

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The Brazilians edged Sekhukhune United 2-1 in a DStv Premiership match at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday.

Masandawana will be back at the same venue three days later looking to overturn the 1-0 defeat to Esperance from the first leg and to book their place in the final of Africa’s coveted club competition. 

Mashego believes his former team will still be haunted by the scare against Young Africans in the previous round where they needed penalties to progress to the last four.

“You’re dealing with human beings. You can’t switch them on and off and expect them to do miracles,” he said in an interview with Phakaaathi.

“They still need to play, they have 90 minutes left against Esperance. At the back of their minds, they are thinking about Yanga, how they went through and all the talk.

“They need to overcome that and fight to be in the final. It will be difficult now because they are trailing and we saw they struggled to score against Yanga.”

Mashego has challenged the technical team led by Rulani Mokwena to galvanise the current generation to reach their first champions league final since 2016 when they went all the way in the competition. Sundowns were knocked out by Wydad Casablanca at this stage of the champions league last season.

“With Sundowns being who they are, I’m sure they can overcome this deficit and reach the final but it’s not a on and off thing switch, they still need to work hard,” he said.

“It’s up to the coaches now to rally the boys, calm them down and bring them down to earth because in the last five or six games, they haven’t been themselves. They just need something to get back into the Sundowns that we all know.

“I don’t understand when people say Sundowns are playing one way. This team is a bit more direct and scored goals that way. The frequency of playing more direct is less than when they want to play from behind but I think with the players Sundowns have, it’s safe for them to play the way they are playing and I don’t see them changing that.”

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Sundowns will be sweating over the fitness of reigning PSL Footballer of the Season Teboho Mokoena who was desperately missed in the away leg in Tunisia. The Bafana Bafana midfielder is carrying a minor hamstring injury but could be back for the do-or-die match.