Our football expert previews the friendly between Mamelodi Sundowns and Barcelona set to take place on Wednesday 16 May, 2018.
It’s South African champions versus the Spanish champions! This may be no more than a glorified friendly as it is part of the events to commemorate the late Nelson Mandela’s centenary but both teams are expected to leave it all on the pitch in honour of the late icon. It’s the second time the Catalan giants visit South Africa and when they played the Brazilians in 2007, they triumphed 2-1. Are they going to repeat the same feat this time around?
World Club Friendly
Wednesday 16 May
Mamelodi Sundowns 9/2
The timing wouldn’t have been perfect for Pitso Mosimane’s men as they’ve already sealed the league title with two matches to spare and they will play Barcelona four days after the completion of a domestic season for them. They will lift the league title against Bloemfontein Celtic ahead of this encounter and I’m expecting them to rest key players for this massive friendly.
Sundowns won the CAF Champions League in 2016, making them the best team in Africa which gave Mosimane and his boys an opportunity to represent the continent in the FIFA Club World Cup which is something they’ve always desired. After being humiliated in that tournament, they vowed to return stronger and bringing a team of Barcelona’s calibre is part of preparing for the spectacle.
The last time Sundowns played Barca, they scored inside the first two minutes to keep the game interesting even though they ended up losing 2-1. Percy Tau who is in contention for all top domestic awards this season is expected to stamp his authority and hopefully impress a few scouts.
The Brazilians must also be applauded for being able to get CAF to postpone their important Champions League clash with Horoya which was due to take place on the 17th of May. This will allow for full focus on the clash at hand.
It’s amazing that according to the signed agreement Barcelona have to bring their big-name superstars like Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta etc. What makes the whole situation interesting is the fact that the World Cup is around the corner and they don’t want to sustain injuries ahead of the tournament.
Barcelona were so disappointing at Roma, relinquishing a 4-1 lead from the first leg to lose the tie on the away goals rule, but they’ve been superb in the league as they wrapped it up with four matches to spare and they’re on the cusp of finishing the season unbeaten, a feat that hasn’t been achieved in the modern Spanish era.
Lionel Messi is the runaway leading goalscorer and their other dangerman, Luis Suarez, is third on the goalscorer’s charts. Sundowns defenders will definitely have a long day in the office. I’m expecting Barcelona to take this game seriously as they highly respect Mandela and they showed that after his passing by wearing black armbands in the game against Cartagena.
Verdict: Barcelona 6/10
I’m expecting the well-oiled Catalan machine to absolutely annihilate Sundowns. The Brazilians’ defence is a definite cause for concern for me and I foresee containing the likes of Messi being mission impossible. Sundowns have shown signs of being weak when playing against attacking teams like Maritzburg United, Orlando Pirates, Polokwane City, and Wydad Casablanca. My money is on Barcelona.