Sundowns, Wydad ready for quarterfinal battle

Sundowns, Wydad ready for quarterfinal battle
Percy Tau of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrating his goal during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 game between Free State Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns at Goble Park, Bethlehem on 11 September 2017 © Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Sunday Sep 17, 2017. 09:00

Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca will begin battle for a place in the CAF Champions League semifinals when they meet at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Tshwane on Sunday, kick-off at 15h00 CAT.

The teams' first leg, quarterfinal clash promises to be a thrilling South v North African battle in which the competition's title holders will seek a strong advantage to take with them to Morocco next weekend.

Wydad were one of the more impressive teams on show in the previous round: they topped a tough Group D ahead of eight-time champions Al Ahly and also have the honour of being the reigning Moroccan title holders.

However, their domestic league campaign got off to a rocky start last weekend when they were beaten 3-1 at home by rivals FUS Rabat, and they will have had significantly less time to prepare for this clash in the wake of a Thursday afternoon match against Rapide Oued Zem.

Sundowns secured their place in the last eight by finishing second behind Tunisian heavyweights Esperance de Tunis in Group C, with a record of two wins, three draws and just one defeat.

The Brazilians will be hoping to improve on their home form: they didn’t win any of the three group matches they hosted and have also lost both of their domestic home matches so far in the 2017/18 season.

Coach Pitso Mosimane will have to cope with a lengthy list of injuries, but his side’s victory away to Free State Stars in a domestic league game earlier this week demonstrated their strength in depth.

"Anthony [Laffor] is on crutches, Khama [Billiat] is injured, Leo [Castro] made it through a late fitness test, [Tiyani] Mabunda is injured. We need to make sure that we look after the team. A team that played tonight is a team I trusted. If you're in the team of Mamelodi Sundowns, you have to play, there's no first team and second team,” the ‘Downs coach said after the game against Stars.

The match in Tshwane will be handled by Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa. The return leg is set for Saturday 23 September at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca. The aggregate winners will face either Ferroviario Beira or USM Alger in the semifinals.





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