Bumper soccer weekend for local supporters


Bumper soccer weekend for local supporters

Mamelodi Sundowns

More than pride will be at stake when Mamelodi Sundowns face Tunisian giants Esperance in the first leg of the CAF Champions League semi-final in Tunis tomorrow evening.

The two clubs will be fighting for a place in the final of the Champions League in a two-legged affair. On top of that, Sundowns and Esperance will also be fighting for a place in next year’s revamped FIFA Club World Cup.

The return leg will be played at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria next Friday.

After playing to a 2-all draw away to Moroka Swallows in the DSTV Premiership on Monday, Mamelodi Sundowns’ focus will now shift to the crunch CAF Champions League fixture this weekend.

The team is only a few matches away from clinching their second CAF inter-club continental crown.

But the match is more important than that, as teams also grapple for four places allocated for the African continent in the FIFA Club World Cup.

African giants Al Ahly and Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca have already qualified for the prestigious event after winning the Champions League for the past two seasons.

The winner of this season’s CAF Champions League will automatically qualify for next year’s FIFA Club World Cup.

Even if they don’t win the Champions League this season, Sundowns are ahead in the point race based on their performance in the competition in the past few years.

Sundowns’ defender, Thapelo Morena, says they are bracing themselves for a tough encounter at the Stade Olympique Hammadi.

“I think the first few minutes they gonna come guns blazing because they are playing home and they gonna go mostly on the sides as how they play. I think they gonna take the style of play they played in the AFCON and I think the most important thing which just need to try and close the sides and force them inside where we have numbers”.

This will be the third meeting between the two clubs in the Champions League, with Esperance enjoying a good head-to-head record.

Morena still remembers the goalless draw they played with Esperance back in 2017.

The Tunisian club beat Sundowns 2-1 at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville.

“It’s not my first time being in Tunis and it’s not my first time playing against Esperance, so I think maybe this time it’s gonna be way better than the last time when I was here in Tunis. So, I think we gonna have a great atmosphere. Our mindset is a bit different, especially when we play Champions League because we know when we play away, how supporters are and how passionate they are with supporting their teams especially when they play at home. The atmosphere is gonna be something else.”

Back at home, it will be an action-packed weekend in the DSTV Premiership, with seven matches lined up from Saturday afternoon.

In the repeat of the Nedbank Cup quarter-final, a wounded AmaZulu will visit Orlando Pirates in Soweto and also on Saturday, SuperSport United will host Chippa United.

Sekhukhune United will host bottom-of-the-log Cape Town Spurs, with Golden Arrows playing at home against Royal AM in the KwaZulu-Natal derby.

On Sunday, Kaizer Chiefs will travel to the struggling Richards Bay FC, Polokwane City will welcome Cape Town City and second-placed Stellenbosch FC will travel to TS Galaxy.

Sundowns will return to local action when they host Sekhukhune United on Tuesday evening, before facing Kaizer Chiefs next Tuesday.

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