Al Ahly's Walid Azarou (L) fights for the ball with sundowns' Anele Ngcongca during the second leg of the CAF Champions League quarter final at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Borg El Arab, on April 13, 2019. Picture: AHMED RAMADAN / AFP
Al Ahly's Walid Azarou (L) fights for the ball with sundowns' Anele Ngcongca during the second leg of the CAF Champions League quarter final at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Borg El Arab, on April 13, 2019. Picture: AHMED RAMADAN / AFP

Coach Pitso Mosimane’s well-oiled Mamelodi Sundowns machine now shifts focus to the domestic front after their impressive showing against Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in Egypt a few days ago.

Mosimane’s second-placed Brazilians resume their pursuit of  premiership leaders Orlando Pirates when they welcome Tshwane rivals SuperSport United in an eagerly anticipated derby at Loftus on Wednesday.

Sundowns returned from Egypt on Monday morning with a Champions League semifinal place secured after a 5-1 aggregate win over Al Ahly.

But domestic leaders Pirates opened up a six-point gap in the league while Sundowns were distracted by their continental duties‚ even though the Bucs have played three matches more than their rivals.

Mosimane gave his players time off on Monday and they only did light training on Tuesday morning.

Sundowns captain Hlompho Kekana told Business Day they have taken the heavy schedule in their stride.

“At this stage of the season‚ it is more about resting than training because we have a busy travelling schedule‚” said Kekana.

Sundowns are now in  catch-up mode with three games in seven days, against SuperSport  on Wednesday‚ a trip to Polokwane to play Baroka FC on Saturday and a visit by Chippa United next week. 

Kekana said they fly out to Morocco for the Champions League semifinals after the match against Chippa United.

“Fortunately for most of us‚ we are used to this type of schedule because we have been doing it for the past five years‚” he said.

“It is always good to see that even new players to the team like Lebohang Maboe have adapted very well to the challenges of competing on the continent and domestically.”

Kekana said Pirates’ six-point advantage at the top of the log has put them under pressure as they now have to win all their remaining matches.

“The title race is going to be an interesting one over the next few weeks and it is going to be more about how we handle the pressure mentally‚” he said.

“Every game is going to be do or die for us because we can’t compromise the domestic league over the Champions League.

“We are going to continue fighting tooth and nail to finish as best as we can in both the Champions League and the Premiership.”

Looking ahead to the clash against SuperSport‚ where they have won nine and drawn one in their past 10 matches‚ Kekana is expecting another tough encounter.

“It is going to be a tricky match for both of us because we need the points‚” he said.

“We want to close the gap on Pirates to keep things interesting and they [United] want to improve their position on the log.

“There is always something when we play against them, and it is a derby, which means pride will be at stake.

“We have dominated them over the past few years in the league but you never know with a derby match.”