Can Sundowns clinch Champions League semifinal berth?

Can Sundowns clinch Champions League semifinal berth?
Ronwen Williams of Sundowns during the CAF Champions League 2023/24 quarterfinals 1st leg match between Young Africans and Mamelodi Sundowns at Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar Es Salam, Tanzania on 30 March 2024 ©Weam MostafaBackpagePix

by Thando Mpembe

Thursday Apr 04, 2024. 13:00

Mamelodi Sundowns will go in search of a place in the semifinals of the CAF Champions League when they host Young Africans at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on the evening of Friday 5 April, kick-off at 8pm CAT.

The first-leg match between the teams at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Dar es Salaam ended in a goalless stalemate, leaving this return game in Tshwane as the deciding factor for the South African and Tanzanian heavyweights.

With their domestic league virtually a lock for a seventh straight championship, Sundowns can afford to put almost all of their energy and intensity into the quest to win the CAFCL for a second time – a goal which has eluded them since their storied triumph in 2016.

Since then, the Brazilians have reached the semis just twice (2018-19 and 2022-23), but this group of players – which also won the inaugural African Football League in November last year – seem to have the bit between their teeth when it comes to the goal of continental conquest.

Of course I will see Sundowns in the next round, I’m very confident about that, in fact,” said coach Rhulani Mokwena in the wake of the first leg last weekend.

He added, “It is tough, it is tough to play against Young Africans and I said it before in the press conference and we played exactly the way I have spoken. ‘It’s a good team, well-coached team, so we knew that it was going to be tough. But I think we were alright, we can be better but we were alright under the conditions.”

Young Africans, meanwhile, are looking to make history by reaching the final four of the Champions League for the first time in their history.

And they have been boosted by the news that Pacome Zouzoua and Khalid Aucho will return to availability after recovering from injuries.

We have assembled a complete squad, ready to take on Mamelodi,” said coach Miguel Angel Gamondi, who had a stint in charge of Sundowns in the mid-2000s. “Our team spirit is high and we are excited to have our full complement of players available.”

The aggregate winners of the tie will face either Esperance de Tunis or ASEC Mimosas in the semifinals, set for the last two weekends of April.

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