Michaelson Ntokozo Gumede

By Ntokozo Gumede


Why finishing above Ahly doesn’t bother Sundowns’ Mngqithi

'What is important is to make sure that you qualify for the quarterfinals,' said Sundowns' co-head coach

Mamelodi Sundowns are far more bothered about making it to the quarterfinals of the Caf Champions League than finishing on top of Group A, as they head into a second meeting with Egyptian giants Al Ahly tomorrow at FNB Stadium. 

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At the halfway stage in the group, Sundowns are top with seven points from three matches, having already beaten Pitso Mosimane’s second-placed Ahly in Cairo. If Sundowns could beat Ahly again they would virtually secure top spot in the Group with two games left to play. 

“Topping the group is not always the most important thing, what is important is to make sure that you qualify for the quarterfinals,” said Sundowns co-head coach Manqoba Mngqithi yesterday.

The Masandawana mentor is basing his logic on previous experiences in the competition, making specific references to when Downs claimed the trophy in 2016.

“When we look at the Champions League over the years, we have always said that when you are topping the group, you stand to play your first match away from home in the quarterfinals and at times that is not always the best,” added Mngqithi. 

“You are already under pressure from the first game’s results. If you were to play the first match at home … and you do well, (it can work) which is what we did in the final,” said Mngqithi.

“We played against Zamalek at home and we did well, and when we went away for the second-leg, we did not win that match but because of the result that we had at home, it already put us in the same position. 

“We had the same experience with Wydad Casablanca where we went away from home and we did not get a result there and when we came back this side, we were already playing under pressure.  There are always some dynamics that you must look at,” he added, presumably referring to the 2018/19 Champions League semifinal against Wydad, where Sundowns lost the first leg 2-1 away from home and could only manage a goalless draw at home. 

The Downs mentor did say admit that Sundowns and Ahly are the favourites to progress to the quarterfinals, but refused to completely rule out Al Merreikh or Al Hilal. 

 “Under normal circumstances one would think that Ahly and Sundowns should be the ones going through, but that would be done at the expense of undermining two very formidable teams in Al-Merreikh and Al-Hilal Omdurman. I also believe that they have what it takes to upset this group in one way or another.”

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