MANDELA CENTENARY CUP
Sundowns to give Barcelona ‘a friendly run’
The friendly pits the new Premiership winners against the Spanish La Liga champions
Free State Stars’ Uefa pro licence coach Luc Eymael believes Mamelodi Sundowns will give Barcelona a run for their considerable money when the two meet in Wednesday night’s friendly at FNB Stadium.
Barcelona have been brought to SA at a great cost to compete in the Mandela Centenary Cup friendly (kick-off 6.15pm) in front of a 78,800-strong crowd.
Eymael is one of the highest qualified coaches in SA. His Stars faced Sundowns twice on their way to a sixth-place finish in the 2017-18 Premiership season. He believes Downs can match Barcelona blow for blow.
The Belgian cautioned that not too much should be read into the result of a friendly match‚ particularly with Barca only arriving in the country on Wednesday morning.
But he said even a friendly game against some of the world’s best stars‚ including Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez‚ would be of value for Sundowns‚ especially in their preparations for the resumption of their Caf Champions League group stage campaign against Horoya in Guinea on May 22.
"For Sundowns it certainly is a place to show everybody what they can do at a good level‚" Eymael said. "Sundowns play nice soccer‚ a good ball possession game‚ a bit like Barcelona. They will be up against more experienced players.
"It depends on which players the Barca coach uses — I’m sure he will do some rotation of players. It will be a very good experience for the Sundowns players‚ because after that they will play in the Champions League," the coach said.
"And nobody can take away the experience that you gain in these high-level games. It will help their players playing in the national team‚ in the Champions League and in the league.
"You know‚ so many times you will hear [Downs coach] Pitso [Mosimane] saying: ‘Ah‚ we knew that we would win because we are used to these games’. Now it will be a different game," said Eymael.
"With Barcelona it’s a culture where from a young age‚ when you are eight years old‚ you play with the same system‚ the same philosophy. But we say that Sundowns are the ‘Brazilians’ of SA‚ so we will see.
"I think it will be a very interesting game‚ and it will help Sundowns to gain more experience at the higher level and prepare them for the Champions League," Eymael said.
The friendly pits the new Premiership winners against the Spanish La Liga champions.
Eymael said the crowd‚ and Sundowns being keyed up to prove themselves against Barca‚ could be levellers.
"When a team is underestimated‚ and you are facing the favourites‚ the players who are the underdogs play at 150% or 200%‚" the Stars coach said.
"So‚ yes it’s a friendly for Barcelona. But I’m sure for Sundowns it’s not a friendly.
"The big home crowd will also help Sundowns."
Tickets for the Sundowns-Barca game were sold out by Monday night.