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PREVIEW: Rulani Mokwena to shuffle Mamelodi Sundowns line-up for Sekhukhune clash ahead of Esperance showdown

Player rotation may not be Rulani Mokwena’s policy, but under the circumstances, the Mamelodi Sundowns mentor is left with almost no choice but to change his starting line-up against Sekhukhune United on Tuesday evening.

Mamelodi Sundowns players warming up ahead of a Caf Champions League match against Esperance.

Player rotation may not be Rulani Mokwena's policy, but under the circumstances, the Mamelodi Sundowns mentor is left with almost no choice but to change his starting line-up against Sekhukhune United on Tuesday evening.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

The Brazilians host Lehlohonolo Seema’s hard-running Babina Noko at Loftus Versfeld Stadium just three days after playing their first-leg semi-final in Tunisia against Esperance, in a 1-0 defeat in the CAF Champions League.

Sundowns’ progression in the continental competition has left a vacuum on the domestic front with a number of matches in hand over their domestic rivals.

The defending DStv Premiership champions have three games in hand with most teams preparing for round 25 of the league campaign.

The reigning league champions hold a significant 10-point margin atop the standings with 53 points, ahead of second-placed Stellenbosch.

The Brazilians remain on course to navigate the entire season without suffering a single defeat. This is an accomplishment achieved by few teams, such as English giants Arsenal – known as the “Invincibles” – while Italian heavyweights AC Milan and Juventus are also in this exclusive group.

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Esperance, Zamalek, and Al Ahly – who have done it three times in the last two decades – top the charts on the African continent.  

If Mokwena is to achieve this with his team and still do well in the Caf Champions League, he will need to bring some changes tonight as the club hosts Esperance in the reverse fixture three days later in the capital city. 

Mokwena will be desperate for fresh legs against Sekhukhune and rejuvenated bodies against the four-time African champions.

This evening, Mokwena may need to rest some of his key players such as captain Themba Zwane, who has so far clocked up about 839 minutes across all competitions this season. ‘Mshishi’ played 69 minutes against Esperance and he may not be needed against Babina Noko.

Mamelodi Sundowns players warming up.

Key players Sundowns might rest

Ribeiro Costa
The Brazilian is gunning for the PSL Golden Boot in his first season. However, he has not had much rest in the last five games, clocking up to 1140 minutes across all competitions. Mokwena might not want to risk his only on-form striker ahead of the Esperance clash.

Khuliso Mudau
In the past 10 games, Mudau has only missed three and was left to play the entire 90 minutes in the other seven games. Given the mileage he clocked up in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Mokwena might want to rest him and give Thapelo Morena a chance as the 30-year-old has been a sporadic player this season.

Marcello Allende
The Chilean has already matched his previous season’s stats in fewer games as he has netted twice and provided as many assists in the league. He is arguably one of the most creative players in the Downs camp and having played a full 90 minutes against Esperance, he is likely to be spared against United.

Goalkeeping department
Ronwen Williams has played 17 league games so far, and Mokwena might want to rest him to afford Denis Onyango or Reyaad Pieterse a chance to get a run-out. Pieterse has only played once this season while Onyango made two appearances. If ever there was a time Mokwena would be tempted to rest Williams, it might be in this game.

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