Mamelodi Sundowns will have to create club history to beat AS Togo-Port in their African Champions League group C clash in Lome on Tuesday.
The Brazilians have played 109 matches in African club football over the years but have never won in West Africa.
South African teams traditionally struggle in that part of the continent and it has been no different for Sundowns‚ who even lost there twice in their Champions League-winning season of 2016.
South African club sides have travelled to West Africa for 32 matches in all competitions and won only four times‚ remarkably Orlando Pirates every time.
Their most famous win was the 1-0 success over ASEC Abidjan in the second leg of the 1995 Champions Cup trophy, which saw them crowned continental champions. They have also beaten Ghana side Hearts of Oak and Guinea outfits AS Kaloum and ASM Sangarendi.
Sundowns are expected to defeat a side considered pool minnows. Togo-Port have already lost two matches in the group and will be without their two best defenders through the suspension of captain Issifou Bourahana and the sale to French side Lille of Hakim Ouro-Sama earlier in July.
But they must go against history to do it‚ with Sundowns’ previous five visits to West Africa having yielded no joy.
They were hammered 6-1 by Ivorian side Africa Sports in the group stages of the 2000 Champions League and lost 2-0 to Nigerian side Julius Berger a year later when they were losing finalists.
It was another 15 years before they returned to that part of the continent‚ where they met Ghanaian side Medeama SC when they dropped into the African Confederation Cup in 2016 before being restored to the Champions League after the disqualification of AS Vita Club. Sundowns lost 2-0 to the Ghana side as they went down in that tie on away goals.
They later travelled to Nigeria to face Enyimba in the Champions League pool phase and lost 3-1‚ though with their semifinal place already secured‚ they fielded a second-string side.
Their most recent visit to the region was in May, when they faced Horoya of Guinea in their second pool match of the 2018 competition and were held to a 2-2 draw.
The good news for coach Pitso Mosimane is that the side has won all of their four home matches against West African opposition down the years and will expect to brush aside Horoya this season when they host them on August 28.
The back-to-back matches against Togo-Port are a must-win matter‚ says Sundowns striker Sibusiso Vilakazi.
Sundowns are not quite at desperation stage yet‚ despite starting with two draws: 1-1 at home against Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca and 2-2 in Guinea against Horoya.
Six points against Togo-Port in Lome then back at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville on July 27 would put Sundowns in the driving seat for at least the second place and qualification for the quarterfinals.
But maximum points from one of the games and perhaps a point from the other would seem the minimum requirement for 2016 champions Sundowns to keep their ambition to regain their title on track.
"The most important thing‚ since we are playing the side who are lowest‚ is to keep them there‚" Vilakazi said.
"We haven’t had the greatest start‚ as we would have wanted to. But at least we’ve been able to get points out of the games we’ve played.
"So we’ve had a start. And it’s up to us to go away and try to get a win.
"Because of the disappointing start we must at least try to get a win playing away [against AS]. That’s the reality — that we have to go in there and try to get a win.
"The target is to win the Champions League again. And with the team we have I believe we are capable of going all the way."