Sundowns gunning for big points haul before Christmas
Co-coach Mngqithi welcomes November break, even it poses a threat to his team’s top form
Juggernauts Mamelodi Sundowns’ quest for an unprecedented fifth successive Premier Soccer League (PSL) title will take a back seat for the next two weeks as focus shifts to the national team, with co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi welcoming the break, even though it comes at a time when his team are in top form.
Sundowns underlined their intention to retain the PSL title they have won for the past four years with a merciless 4-0 mauling of bottom club Marumo Gallants away in Polokwane on Sunday to open up a five-point lead at the top with a game in hand.
The champions lead the way with 25 points from nine matches and have played one game fewer than their closest challengers, who have mostly had 10 outings.
Sundowns are on a menacing run during which they became the first team in SA football with 12 clean sheets in a row stretching back from last season. They set a new record in the PSL era of 22 successive wins away from home, which had stood since 2005.
Even though Sundowns are in cruise control, Mngqithi believes the Fifa international break comes at the right time.
“We do not think that it is a distraction,” he said. “We think it is a break that is necessary for a team like ours. We have had far too many matches in a short space of time and the players must refresh a little bit.”
Sundowns have played 15 matches in all competitions from August 15 to November 7, which included three Fifa breaks in September, October and this month, romping to an unbeaten league run in nine matches, advancing to the group stages of the Caf Champions League and winning the MTN8 cup.
Mngqithi said a recharge of their batteries will be essential, as Sundowns face an uphill battle when the PSL resumes with a trip to Cape Town City on November 20.
“The marathon we are going to have after this Fifa break is going to be harsh for every team because after the break we are looking at playing about 11 matches, and that is not going to be easy for many teams,” the 50-year-old coach said.
Mngqithi said Sundowns will be determined to put distance between themselves and their title rivals by the time Christmas arrives.
“In a space of close to six weeks we are expected to play 11 matches and many teams will crumble there and that might give us a benefit maybe to acquire as many points just before Christmas.”
Mngqithi heaped praise on new arrival Neo Maema, who produced yet another player of the match performance in the win over Gallants. The 25-year-old Maema stands head and shoulders above players in the same position as the former Bloemfontein Celtic attacking midfielder, he said.