Worrisome for Downs

Sipho Mthembu

Sipho Mthembu

Mamelodi Sundowns must be worried, very worried of their tricky opponents, TP Mazembe, in their opening mini-league Confederations Cup fixture at Loftus on Saturday (7.30pm).

Sundowns will be looking at starting well and maintaining their rhythm with an eye on the R2,1 million winners' cheque or a minimum R700000 for making the top four.

There is also the small issue of proving they deserve their place in the local big three by being the next after Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs to win a continental club title.

However, a look at the route to Saturday's clash suggests the visitors have done better in a campaign that started as the CAF Champions League before both teams bombed out in the third round and were relegated to the Confederations Cup.

In their six Champions League games, respectively, Mazembe were deadlier in front of goal and tighter in defence. They scored 14 and conceded six for a plus-eight goals difference. Sundowns scored 11 and conceded seven for a plus-four goals difference.

Moreover, Sundowns were beaten convincingly (4-2) when they bombed out in the third round at the hands of Egyptian giants Al Ahly. Mazembe were pipped 2-1 by Morocco's Far Rabat.

If the earlier rounds of the Champions League are not the most accurate gauge on how competitive and disciplined a team is, then the Confederations Cup fourth round should give a better indication.

The fourth round is when eight teams fail to advance to the Champions League mini-league stage and are relegated to the Confederations Cup, where most find it difficult to regroup from their disappointment and do well in the latter tournament.

It is at this round of the tournament where Sundowns struggled to beat Tunisian league table proppers Gouafel Gafsa 3-2 on aggregate. Mazembe registered a resounding 4-1 win over Zimbabwean team Mwana Africa.