Hlompho Kekana. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Hlompho Kekana. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Mamelodi Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana says he relishes the challenges posed by the more tactical‚ less unpredictable North African teams‚ ahead of Sunday’s first-leg Caf Champions League quarterfinal against Wydad Casablanca.

Much of the feel-good factor surrounding South African football after Sundowns won the 2016 Champions League has fallen away after the past week’s disastrous World Cup performance by Bafana Bafana against Cape Verde.

Sundowns could help restore some pride by beating Moroccans Wydad‚ 1992 winners and 2011 finalists of the competition.

Downs‚ though‚ have been in temperamental form and victory over the two legs is by no means assured.

Kekana at least relishes the prospect from his midfield role against North African opposition‚ whose structure‚ he says‚ can make them a challenge, but also easier to plan against.

"The North Africans generally play the same model of a game. And I like playing them‚" the Downs captain said.

"They give you time to think‚ they give you a lot of challenges tactically. We’re excited to play against them.

"You have to be on your toes the whole time‚ the level of concentration has to be high. It takes mental strength."

Perhaps a concern for Sundowns is that they are not as metronomically assured at home as they were in last season’s competition‚ though this year, the Brazilians have been stronger on the road.

"We are a lot more aware as players of the situation that we are in. We haven’t been doing well at home‚" Kekana said.

Sundowns have won two and lost two in a patchy start to the domestic season — both wins away and defeats at home.


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