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By Katlego Modiba

Football Journalist

OPINION – Sundowns’ cracks are starting to show

Whatever is happening in defence, Rulani Mokwena needs to find solutions and needs to find them fast.

If I was a Mamelodi Sundowns fan, I would be worried for a myriad of reasons heading into the first leg of the Caf Champions League semifinal against Esperance in Tunisia.

The Tunisian giants will be a much tougher challenge than AmaTuks and Moroka Swallows on Friday. Judging by Sundowns’ last two performances, their fans have every right to be concerned.

There’s no other way to put it, fatigue has caught up with the Brazilians. They are not as fluid as they were earlier in the season. Being sloppy in possession of the ball is not something you associate with Masandawana but the cracks are starting to show.

Tuks and the Dube Birds exposed another aspect of their game that has gone off the boil. Apart from Rulani Mokwena’s charges conceding possession with relative ease, especially under relentless pressing, they are also giving away cheap goals.

Set-piece problems

It seems like the defending set-pieces has become a problem again. Being unable to deal with long balls floated into the box is not going to help their Champions League aspirations. The North Africans thrive on that and it proved to be Sundowns’ downfall last season when they were knocked out by Wydad Casablanca at this stage of the competition.

Whatever is happening in defence, Mokwena needs to find solutions and needs to find them fast. An experienced team that has been so solid at the back this season shouldn’t concede from a set-play in back to back games against less-fancied teams. The schoolboy defending raises alarms ahead of the big one in Africa’s premier club competition. Now is not the time to be charitable at the back.

Credit must go to the DStv Premiership champions who are still unbeaten in the league. They are still in the hunt for a quadruple having already won the African Football League. The domestic league is all but wrapped up but if Sundowns want to add the Nedbank Cup and Champions League to their trophy cabinet this season, they need to somehow get back to their best. The previous two games have been too close for comfort and everyone associated with the club will be hoping for a better showing in what has been a gruelling season so far.