Our football writer previews the CAF Champions League clash between Wydad Casablanca and Mamelodi Sundowns which takes place on Friday 17 August 2018.
It’s crunch time in the CAF Champions League as South Africa’s only representative, Mamelodi Sundowns, do battle with holders, Wydad Casablanca, on Friday night in Morocco. Group C is slowly proving to be a group of death, with all four teams still in with a shout to qualify. Wydad lead the way with eight points, while Masandawana are placed second on five points, level with Horoya and two ahead of Togo-Port. The last meeting between these two sides ended 1-1 in Pretoria, now, both teams will be looking for a more positive result in Casablanca.
CAF Champions League
Wydad Casablanca vs Mamelodi Sundowns
Friday 17 August
Stade Mohamed V
To win (Forecast betting)
Wydad Casablanca 9/20
Wydad Casablanca will be hoping to continue their dominant display in the CAF Champions League when they host Mamelodi Sundowns at the Stade Mohamed V on Friday. The Moroccans stand tall on top of Group C, unbeaten with their two wins and two draws in their opening four matches.
Their goal difference of +8 suggests that they could afford to drop a couple of points and still advance to the knockout stages, but at their home turf, with just a few empty seats in the stadium, Wydad always look up for the challenge and will by no means be ready to let an early opportunity of progressing slip them by.
The last time they played Sundowns, the Emperors were brilliant going forward and showed plenty of pace in attack. Keep in mind that they were also wary of the threat that the Brazilians posed on the counter and weren’t drawn in to committing too many numbers forward.
They’re intelligent in their play, identify their opponents’ weak points, and if I’m being completely honest, have all the capabilities of lifting the CAF Champions League once again.
Coach Pitso Mosimane and his Sundowns squad will be raring to go and bounce back from their miserable away form in the CAF Champions League, failing to win in both of their matches on the road in Group C. Now, against one of the tournament’s favourites, the neutrals have given Sundowns very little chance of earning something in Casablanca.
One positive for Masandawana, is that they’re well into the season now and players are starting to find their feet and adjust to a new winning formula that doesn’t consist of Percy Tau and Khama Billiat.
Andile Jali and Lebohang Maboe have shown glimpses of what they can do on any given day, although the likes of Jose Ali Meza and Toni Silva need a bit more time. Still, Sundowns are gifted with a plethora of talent all over the pitch and can even afford to drop their club-captain, Hlompho Kekana, at times.
The players have the experience to make it through to the latter stages of the tournament, but they will need to do better on their travels across Africa. The Brazilians last went to Wydad at the back end of 2017 in the quarter-finals, where they lost 1-0 in 90 minutes, and suffered further defeat in a penalty shootout.
Speaking on how he will approach the game this time around, coach ‘Jingles’ stated that he will need players who know how to grind a result. “Tigers”, as he would call them.
“I don’t think that Wydad will give you an opportunity for an all-out attack,” Mosimane said on the club’s official website.
“They are a big team, they are a strong team. You will see a sea of red in the stands. You know the story. They will push us back. We need to be compact. We need to be smart. We can get a few breaks. You don’t get many opportunities there. But Sundowns always gets one or two chances to score. We need to manage that. If we don’t win, get a draw.
“They respect us. I need to get the right balance in midfield for that match. I need tigers for that match, people who will grind to get a result. It might not look pretty but we must keep going and probing. If you get three points, then you’ll be happy. One might also be enough because we have to sort out Horoya here in our last game,” Mosimane concluded.
Verdict: Wydad Casablanca Win (9/20)
Wydad have looked superb in the CAF Champions League so far and at home, I simply give Masandawana no chance. Al Ahly were the last team to beat Wydad in the CAF Champions League at home, way back in 2016. Unsurprisingly, they’ve won all 12 since then. It’s a crucial game for Sundowns, but it would take a miracle to even get a point. Back Wydad here and include in all multiples.