It is 2019 and nobody is under any illusions about the enormity of the task that lies ahead for Mamelodi Sundowns in Group A of the CAF Champions League.
Away fixtures have always been a daunting affair for South African teams but no football loving person can ignore the extent of the quality that exists in this group. ASEC Mimosas and Wydad Casablanca are both going to be tough nuts to crack in this campaign.
That makes Friday night’s trip to Nigeria all the more important – and all the more daunting – for Pitso Mosimane’s charges. Lobi Stars are the best prospect of securing maximum points away from home in this campaign, but not even that can be taken for granted.
One ominous sign for Sundowns ahead of this fixture is the small matter of a Nigerian football league that has encountered a series of problems. Lobi Stars have had a lot of time on their hands in the past year.
It could mean Stars will be fresher than Sundowns but it could also mean they lack meaningful match fitness. The jury is out on what kind of storm Mosimane and his team will encounter this weekend.
Sundowns have developed a habit of winning in the past three months, where they have played a considerable amount of football. The jury is also out on where this puts them in their preparations for the fixture.
Self-belief certainly won’t be an issue.
Stars: (W) v Gor Mahia 2-0; (L) v Gor Mahia 3-1; (W) v UMS de Loum 2-0
Sundowns: (W) v Kaizer Chiefs 2-1; (W) v Al Ahli Benghazi 4-0; (D) v Al Ahli Benghazi 0-0
Sundowns: Cuthbert Malajila (Knee); Sibusiso Vilakazi (Achilles Tendon); Thela Ngobeni (Shoulder); Denis Onyango (Knee); Katlego Otladisa (Tibia and Fibula Fracture)
PREDICTION: Sundowns to egde it by 1
Referee: Ghead Grisha
Assistants: Tahssen Abo, Mahmoud Abo El Regal
Competition: CAF Champions League
Date: January 11
Game week: 1
Venue: Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium
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