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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

Morena ready for hostile reception in Tunisia against Esperance

'I think it's one of the best crowds I have played in front of because it's not my first time being Tunisia playing against Esperance,' he said.

Thapelo Morena is not too concerned about the hostile reception that awaits them at Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi on Saturday when they confront Esperance of Tunisia in the first leg of their Caf Champions League semifinal.

The experienced campaigner was part of the 2017 Mamelodi Sundowns team that played to a goalless draw away to Esperance. It was the last time the two heavyweights met but North Africans had recorded a 2-1 win over the Brazilians in Tshwane during that campaign.

The game is expected to be a sold-out affair in Tunis. Flares and fireworks coming from the stand will add to the daunting task Sundowns are faced with. Morena is drawing back on past experiences as they eye a place in the final of Africa’s premier club competition.

“I think it’s one of the best crowds I have played in front of because it’s not my first time being Tunisia playing against Esperance,” he said.

“I think this season will be way better than the last time I was here in Tunis. It will be a great atmosphere with the flames and fireworks from the stands. Our mindset is a bit different especially when we play away in the Champions League.

“We know how passionate they are about supporting their team especially at home. With Al-Ahly, Wydad and the last time I was here, it ranks first and second. The atmosphere is something else but we just want to play our normal game as Sundowns and do our best.”

Sundowns will be playing their third game in eight days after tough encounters against AmaTuks and Moroka Swallows in the Nedbank Cup and DStv Premiership respectively.

‘They are going to come out guns blazing’

“I think regeneration is very important for us. Especially, after the trip and the long flight to bring back the legs,” Morena said about the congested fixture list.

“Obviously, we arrived on Wednesday and we couldn’t do a lot. The most important thing is to sit down and analyse in the video room more than being on our feet.

“I think the first few minutes they are going to come out guns blazing because they are also playing at home. They are going to go mostly on the sides. I think we just need to try to close the sides and force them inside where we have numbers.”