Asavela Mbekile of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates a goal with teammates during the Absa Premiership match Supersport United and Mamelodi Sundowns on 01 March 2016 at Lucas Moripe Stadium.
PRETORIA - Mamelodi Sundowns are potentially just 180 minutes away from reaching the 2016 CAF Champions League final.
The Brazilians face Zambian side Zesco United in a two-legged semifinal showdown, the first game taking place this Saturday afternoon in Ndola.
Sundowns are hoping to become the second South African club, after Orlando Pirates in 1995, to win the continent’s most coveted club prize.
The Pretoria side made the Champions League final in 2001 but lost to Egyptian giants Al Ahly.
The 2016 campaign did not start too smoothly for the Brazilians, who lost their opening game 1-0 away to Zimbabwe side Chicken Inn back in February. However, a 2-0 victory in the home tie was enough to see Pitso Mosimane’s men through to the competition proper.
A 2-0 home win and a 1-1 away draw with Congo side AFC Leopards saw the Tshwane outfit into the next round, where a 1-0 defeat in the DR Congo to AS Vita club and a 2-1 triumph in Pretoria meant that Downs were out on the away goals rule.
But they were given a lifeline and reinstated into the competition when AS Vita were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.
Mosimane: We can do a Denmark https://t.co/Yz68Q66dry— CAF (@CAF_Online) September 15, 2016
Sundowns were to take full advantage in some style, going on to blaze a winning trail through the final group stage, which included previous Champions League winners Zamalek and Enyimba.
Indeed, by the time the Brazilians lost their final group game, 3-1 away to Enyimba, they had already been confirmed as group winners after having beaten Zamalek twice as well as accounting for the Nigerians in their opening match.
Now more determined than ever to add a star to their badge, Mosimane and his team must overcome a tricky Zesco side who have managed to beat the likes of ASEC Mimosas and Al Ahly in recent months.
Sundowns going for the kill https://t.co/OT8sTWpR1r— CAF (@CAF_Online) September 15, 2016
The other semifinal match-up sees Zamalek and Wydad Casablanca squaring up.
Sundowns and Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene is a man that will know Zesco a bit better than most, and he has offered the following words of caution about Saturday’s opponents.
“It’s not surprising because as you can see they have a good coach (George Lwandamina) who is working with both the club and the national team,” Mweene told the Sowetan.
“He has coached Green Buffaloes in the Champions League, so he knows how to play in Africa. That’s why the team is where it is today, because of his experience. He has instilled a lot in the players.
“They have a lot of good players, especially up-front. They have Clatous Chama. He is a winger and they also have Jesse Were,” continued the 2012 Afcon winner.
“They are dangerous players. If we do not pay attention to them, they can hammer us. It will be tough, but we have done our homework.”