Key Champions League games for Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns

11 February 2019 - 16:32
By Mark Gleeson
Luvuyo Memela of Orlando Pirates celebrates a goal with teammates.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix Luvuyo Memela of Orlando Pirates celebrates a goal with teammates.

Tuesday could prove pivotal for both Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates in their bid to progress in the Caf Champions League but both face tough away games in their quest to advance to the quarter-finals.

Unbeaten Pirates are at holders Esperance of Tunisia‚ kick off at 3pm South African time‚ having just arrived in north Africa after the rigours of Saturday’s derby against Kaizer Chiefs.

Sundowns play later‚ kick off at 6pm‚ against ASEC Abidjan in the Ivory Coast capital where they have had several days of acclimatisation in steamy tropical heat.

Sundowns were comfortable 3-1 winners over the 1998 champions at Loftus Versfeld some 10 days ago and have since scored another three when they beat Black Leopards last Wednesday.

But the Brazilians have struggled on the road in west Africa‚ having already lost in Group A in Nigeria to Lobi Stars and let in six goals the last time they were in Abidjan in 2000.

Sundowns’ last two group games were at home and delivered desired outcomes‚ handing them six points and if they are able to forge a result in Abidjan could all but be through to the quarter-finals.

Coach Pitso Mosimane is unlikely to tinker too much with his prototype starting XI‚ with skipper Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda bossing the midfielder and Gaston Sirino and Themba Zwane providing the creativity with veteran Antony Laffor also set to play.

There could be a start upfront for Emiliano Tade‚ who scored on his debut against ASEC after coming on as a late substitute.

But there are concerns over the fitness of Denis Onyango in goal and Musa Lebusa in defence.

Pirates will be using Monday to mostly regenerate their legs after the drama of Saturday’s derby and the subsequent overnight trip to Tunis‚ via Dubai.

The squad left OR Tambo Airport just after 10pm on Saturday night and only arrived in Tunis on Sunday afternoon.

Competition regulations allows them a chance to train at the match venue at the El Menzah Stadium in the city centre on Monday afternoon.

Pirates squandered a myriad of chances to beat Esperance at the Orlando Stadium earlier this month but remain unbeaten in the group after drawing in Zimbabwe with Platinum FC and then beating Horoya of Guinea at home.