Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi described his team’s draw in the group stage of the Caf Champions League as “a tricky affair”.
Sundowns have been drawn in Group C alongside the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) TP Mazembe‚ Sudan’s Al Hilal and CR Belouizdad of Algeria.
The 2016 champions will first host Al Hilal on February 12 before visiting Belouizdad in Algeria on February 23 in the first two of their group stage matches.
Mngqithi‚ who was Pitso Mosimane’s assistant when Sundowns won the tournament in 2016‚ said travelling to the DRC‚ Algeria and Sudan will be one challenging part of their campaign.
“It’s quite tricky‚” said Mngqithi. “At this stage of the championship you can expect anything, but one would have wanted to have a little bit more of direct flights, which is probably what we might not get.
“Even Lubumbashi [in the DRC] doesn’t have direct flights at this stage.
“But in terms of opponents, it’s a very tricky affair because Al Hilal is one team that is looking a bit stronger.
“It’s a team that we have to tread carefully against and the travelling to [Sudan] is not always the easiest. Let’s just hope when we play them at home we can get maximum points.”
Mngqithi highlighted that playing without fans against Mazembe in the DRC will be a big plus as the fans create an intimidating atmosphere at the Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi.
“But Mazembe is always a tricky affair. One would be a little fortunate that the supporters are not coming to the stadiums because that environment [Stade TP Mazembe] can be very hostile for the youngsters.
“But I believe we’ve got what it takes to compete in that space.”
Mngqithi also warned against taking Algerian champions Belouizdad lightly simply because they have not featured in Africa club competitions before, unlike Mazembe‚ who have won the Champions League five times.
“Belouizdad is the new kid on the block but we have to tread very carefully‚” said the Sundowns coach. “The only bad thing with that trip [Algeria] is that it’s never a direct flight. We have to go to Europe and at times to Dubai and come back to Algeria.
“It’s a strain on the team but we hope we’re going to able to get it right.”
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