Sundowns To Pay CAF Price For Extended Campaign?
The PSL season may officially be over following Saturday's Nedbank Cup final, but for Mamelodi Sundowns, a gruelling campaign continues apace as they prepare to return to CAF Champions League action in arguably a must-win match.
The Brazilians lifted the Absa Premiership trophy just over a week ago, finishing the top-flight campaign five points clear of nearest challengers Orlando Pirates, who conceded the title race in the penultimate round.
Then, on Saturday, the final curtain came down on the 2017/18 PSL campaign as Free State Stars edged Maritzburg United in the Nedbank Cup final, the last piece of domestic silverware before the teams head off on a much-needed vacation.
Not so for Sundowns, though, as they followed up their title triumph with a clash against European juggernauts FC Barcelona on Wednesday, where Lionel Messi and Company secured a 3-1 win over Pitso Mosimane's charges in the Nelson Mandela Centenary Cup at FNB Stadium.
The Tshwane giants needed plenty of financial clouts to stage the clash, which reportedly cost Patrice Mostsepe's club over R100m, while they are also believed to have footed the bill to move their CAF Champions League clash against Horoya AC.
That match now takes place on Tuesday, where Sundowns head to Stade du 28 Septembre in Guinea knowing the importance of three points after playing out a 1-1 draw against holders Wydad Casablanca in their Group C opener at the start of May.
The defending champions then took themselves top of the table with a convincing 3-0 win over rock-bottom AS Togo-Port last week while Downs battled Barca, leaving Horoya in second after their opening-day win over the struggling Togolese.
That means Sundowns enter this week's tie in the third position with just a single point, while also failing to win any of their last three outings in all competitions, having ended the league season with a goalless stalemate at Bloemfontein Celtic.
In terms of a top-two finish in the group and progression to the CAF Champions League knockout stages, defeat for Mosimane's side this week could prove devastating at such an early stage in the campaign, something that will surely weigh on the head coach's mind when setting out his tactics.
Victory, on the other hand, would propel Sundowns joint top, where Casablanca currently hold a three-goal advantage over the South African champions in the Group C standings.
Kick-off for Tuesday's encounter, which takes place in Guinea's capital, Conakry, is at 18h00.