There has been no gamesmanship from Wydad Casablanca this time as Mamelodi Sundowns seek a win in Morocco on Friday night that goes a long way to them advancing in the CAF Champions League.
Downs’ quarterfinal ambitions were restored after finally getting their first win of Group C in their fourth match‚ when they won 2-1 against AS Togo-Port in Atteridgeville in July. That result followed draws at home against Wydad and in Guinea against Horoya‚ before an away defeat against AS in Togo.
Now Downs return to Morocco‚ where in 2017 Wydad eliminated the 2016 champions in the quarterfinals before going on to win the competition.
In 2017 Downs were left stranded by their hosts with no training ground‚ having to drive around the Moroccan capital Rabat finding a venue themselves ahead of a 1-0 second-leg defeat‚ which took the game to penalties and a win for Wydad.
There have been no such shenanigans so far this year for the match to be played at Wydad’s 67,000-seater Stade Mohammed V home ground rather than in Rabat‚
"The preparations have gone smoothly," Downs’ centreback Wayne Arendse said.
"[The trip] was a bit long‚ but we’re used to it because there’s no direct flight. We adjusted like we always do … The hotel is good‚ the food is good‚ the rooms are good. So no complaints.
"The pitch we’ve been training on is a good facility. We’re seeing the stadium today [Thursday] and hopefully it will be in tip-top shape.
"The guys were looking sharp yesterday in training. "
Arendse has no illusions‚ though‚ other than to expect a hostile atmosphere in the game at 8pm (9pm in SA).
North African football fans are notoriously fanatical.
"We need to win this game‚" Arendse said. "In the last game‚ we didn’t play in Casablanca. This will be a bit different because we’ll be playing in front of their home fans‚ in the city. The pitch will be good this time.
Wydad have eight points in Group C‚ with Sundowns second on goal difference. Third-placed Horoya are on five points. Togo-Port have three points.