Should Sundowns shake in their boots?Thomas Kwenaite
The African Champions League has reached a stage where one can safely describe it as “Eat or be eaten” with the best eight teams remaining in the most prestigious of the two Pan-African club competitions.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that Mamelodi Sundowns is the only southern African side remaining in the competition where the quarter-final draw will be conducted in Cairo on Wednesday evening.
Once again, North Africa dominates with four representatives in the last eight with Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), Esperance (Tunisia), Al Ahly (Egypt) and Constantinois (Algeria) while TP Mazembe (DR Congo) is the sole Central African representative.
As usual, there is a single West African representative – Horoya (Guinea) – and surprisingly East African – Simba (Tanzania) – which clearly gives an indication that the playing fields have been levelled and names no longer guarantee progression.
But at this stage of the competition it no longer matters who you are paired against and it would be both foolhardy and dangerous for anyone to wish to be paired against either Horoya or Simba as so-called minnows in the competition.
Horoya proved their pedigree when they eliminated Orlando Pirates while Simba played out of their skins to defeat powerhouses Zamalek to give out a clear indication that they will not roll over and allow anyone to trample them.
It does not even matter that at this stage of the competition, the teams that finished second in their respective groups would play the first leg match at home and the second leg away.
Who said playing the first leg at home guarantees you success? Sundowns played Zamalek in the 2016 Champions League first leg final at home and build a comfortable 3-0 lead and merely lost 1-0 in Cairo to lift the trophy.
There has been so much interest in this year’s compressed competition that everyone is waiting with baited breadths for the draw on Wednesday and teams should accept that they can be drawn against anyone and you just have to accept your opponent and plan accordingly.
Sundowns could draw anyone of TP Mazembe, Al Ahly or Esperance and while many would suggest Mazembe offers the best draw, the Lubumbashi giants are difficult to break down at their Kamalondo fortress and it would be folly to wish for them as easy targets.
Sundowns must just grid their teeth and embrace whoever shall be thrown against them and if it means going through a burning furnace to get to the last four, then so be it because then they would prove that they deserve to be considered among the best teams on the continent!