Percy Tau celebrates his goal with Pitso Mosimane, during the 2016 CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Zesco at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa.
JOHANNESBURG - Whether he fully believes his own words is another story, but Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane says his team are not favourites to successfully defend their league title.
After claiming the Premiership crown last May, the Brazilians went on to win the CAF Champions League and also participated in the FIFA Club World Cup, meaning the team has barely had a break in the last 20 or so months.
Add national team commitments for the bulk of the Sundowns players, and it’s no surprise that fatigue has resulted in an increasingly long injury list.
With the domestic league coming to a climax over the next two months and with Nedbank Cup and CAF Champions League commitments also to balance, Masandawana have a massively challenging schedule ahead.
Sundowns are currently locked in a five-way battle for league honours with Cape Town City, Bidvest Wits, SuperSport United and Kaizer Chiefs. With Wits and SuperSport also engaged in continental competition, Mosimane says it’s the newly-formed City and perhaps Chiefs who are favourites to clinch the title.
“I think Cape Town City look good to win the league. I fancy them to win the league‚ because they are well rested,” said the former Bafana coach.
“It’s like Chelsea – they don’t have to play Champions League and they are only waiting for the league. They are fresh. Kaizer Chiefs are fresh. They are only playing in the Nedbank Cup.
“We are everywhere. In April‚ we are playing one game every three days – we are playing nine games. In May we play nine games‚ including in Africa.
“So which team is going to struggle? Sundowns. And Wits‚ depending how seriously they take the Confederation Cup. I know SuperSport United will give it a go in the Confederation Cup. So they and us are disadvantaged.”
But even taking into account the obstacles the Pretoria club must overcome, many people will point to Downs’ squad depth and say they are still favourites to defend their league crown. Mosimane’s comments could well just have been an attempt to shift the pressure from his own players and onto their challengers, much in the way former Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson used to employ mind games in the closing weeks of a campaign.
And not only did he name Cape Town City as favourites, but Mosimane also admitted coveting their best player and captain, Lebogang Manyama.
“It would be nice to have him at Sundowns. But for now, he still belongs to another club. When Sundowns wants a player, we go out there to get that player. I know that Eric (Tinkler) won’t be happy losing one of his valuable players. John Comitis won’t also be happy (either). But you never know, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Next up for Sundowns is a mouth-watering clash with title rivals Chiefs at the FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
“We are the underdogs at this point in time because Kaizer Chiefs have been better in the league,” Mosimane claimed this week.
But Amakhosi coach Steve Komphela brushed aside Mosimane’s comments.
“The underdog tag it’s such a dangerous one because as I always say; ‘the universe favours the underdog.’ So maybe Mosimane is seeking some favour from something divine.
“That they are the underdogs – never! We are not going to buy that. We will give them the respect they deserve and their achievements are clear, so we just have to get on with our business.”