'Pretoria will be too hot to handle for the Moroccans'
Pitso Mosimane is expecting nothing less than three points today when Mamelodi Sundowns square up against Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca at Lucas Moripe Stadium.
That the match is scheduled to kick off at 3pm is no mistake. It is actually part of the strategies employed by the African champions to frustrate their opponents.
Sundowns are hoping to roast the North Africans using the Pretoria sun expected to be close to 30°C by kick-off.
"Make no mistake about us wanting a solid win in this one," said Mosimane of the last-eight Caf Champions League first-leg tie. "We don't want a loss, a goalless or score draw. We just want victory."
Emphatic win expected
Mosimane is confident of an emphatic win today despite worrying that he is likely to be minus his side's lethal ammunition that includes Khama Billiat (hip flexor) and Yannick Zakri (groin).
"If our medical team can get me one of these guys [Billiat or Zakri] ready for this game, I will be much more confident of victory."
Mosimane's challenge upfront means that a huge chunk of the scoring duties will once again fall on Percy Tau, who has become the Brazilians' main source of goals.
Mosimane has Colombian striker Leonardo Castro and Anthony Laffor of Liberia to choose a partner or a cover for 23-year-old Tau, but there's no doubt he would have preferred to have all his strike force.
"We are grateful that we have no worries about Percy but he still needs support from his partners upfront," Mosimane said.
"If the going gets tough [for Percy], we expect every striker we have on our books to do an equally good job for us."
He emphasised that winning today's match is key to them moving to the last four.
After studying Wydad's near-comeback against the eight-time winners of this trophy, Al Ahly, in the semifinal of last year's competition, Mosimane resolved that he will leave nothing to chance at home.
Having lost 4-0 in Cairo, the Moroccans fought hard in the second leg in Casablanca and were unlucky to crash out despite winning 5-2 against the Egyptians who eventually lost to Sundowns in last year's final.
"We are aware of their danger [in Casablanca]," said Mosimane about the team that has won 19 domestic league titles and last won the Champions League in 1992.
So confident is Mosimane about getting his team to the last four, that he has already made plans for the semifinals. "We're staying in North Africa after the second leg because I believe we are likely to face USM Alger [of Algeria] on September 29."
This implies that Mosimane doesn't really give Mozambican side Clube Ferroviario da Beira anything against Alger, a club he expects to meet in Algeria in the first leg of the semifinal.
"I think Alger will be too strong for Beira, hence our decision to book to stay two weeks in North Africa," he said.
"We really appreciate the fact the PSL [Premier Soccer League] have rescheduled our league matches."
After today's match, the Brazilians will be on their way to Morocco tomorrow and will then proceed to Algeria after the second leg if everything goes Mosimane's way.
"If I didn't believe in my players I wouldn't have made these plans. It's my responsibility to send a clear message to my players indicating that I really believe in them," he said.