Sundowns face a tough task in Tunisia
Mamelodi Sundowns will have to secure a rare South African success in Tunisia if they are to overcome Esperance and take control of their African Champions League group.
Pitso Mosimane’s side take on the Tunis giants on Wednesday and defeat could see them cut adrift in third in the pool and facing an uphill battle to make the quarterfinals in the defence of their title.
Esperance currently lead the pool with seven points‚ followed by surprise package St George from Ethiopia with five.
Sundowns have four and AS Vita Club are yet to break their duck after three straight defeats.
Sundowns must still travel to Ethiopia and then host Vita Club in the remainder of the campaign‚ but could find themselves four points adrift if they lose to Esperance and St George beat the out-of-sorts Congolese.
And history is not on their side.
South African clubs have played 14 times before in Tunisia in African club competition and won just twice‚ to go with three draws and nine defeats.
Those two wins came as Kaizer Chiefs claimed a 1-0 success at Club Africain as they were victorious in the 2001 African Cup Winners’ Cup.
Orlando Pirates won 1-0 at CS Sfaxien on their way to the 2015 African Confederation Cup final.
Sundowns have lost 3-2 at Esperance in the Champions League in 2000‚ and then drew there 0-0 in the same competition a year later.
Despite their patchy form and the difficulty of their task‚ returning skipper Hlompho Kekana still feels they have set the benchmark in this year’s competition.
“We need the points‚ perhaps more than they do‚ and if we play our normal game‚ I see us winning‚” Kekana told his club’s website.
“We are no longer underdogs‚ but rather the team to beat. It is normal for defending champions to be put under pressure.
“What remains for us is to remain humble in our approach‚ and to make sure we win our games.
“We prepared well‚ and it is clear all the players want to win. It is very important for us to win so that we are in a good space. We will go to the stadium to play our own game‚ and hopefully win.
“We are getting stronger mentally‚ and we will never give up. We are testing ourselves‚ our character and how we handle ourselves.”