Mokwena warns Sundowns over ‘difficult’ Al-Merreikh
'They are a very difficult team with ... individuals who are technically very good,' said the Sundowns co-head coach.
Rulani Mokwena expects a tough encounter with Al-Merreikh. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
It is not often that you hear Mamelodi Sundowns coaches emphasising how difficult a team is, but that is the pedestal that Rulani Mokwena has put Sudanese side Al-Merreikh on ahead of their Caf Champions League group stage tie this Saturday.
The match will be staged in Cairo, Egypt, at the Al Salam Stadium, as the Sudanese have political unrest in their home country and in any case their home venue does not meet Caf’s requirements.
“The disruption of the Sudanese league makes it difficult to get updated match footage but the good thing is that not a lot has changed from the footage that we received. We have gone through their last four games and they have the same sort of profile,” said Mokwena.
“They are a very difficult team with … individuals who are technically very good. They can manipulate the game and create possibilities to threaten your defence. They make very aggressive runs into the box and they play with a very offensive style. We know what we are up against, they are very physical and very aggressive in the duels with their counter-pressing and are dominant with their set-pieces. This is a very difficult team to play,” he added.
The fact that the match will technically be an away fixture for both sides does not really give Sundowns the advantage, Mokwena says. Perhaps if this was at a time when the competition has advanced into the knockout stages, it would be a different ball-game.
“It is still the group stages, both teams are very experienced in this space and they are consistent participants in the group stages and the ambitions and the targets set do not change, whether we are home or away. What’s important is a clear understanding of bringing out our best performance and once we can do that, we know that we are able to deal with a lot of things on the pitch,” said the Downs mentor.
Sundowns will face two different opponents in Egypt in the Champions League in the space of a week, with Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly lying in wait the following weekend.