Sundowns have a mental hurdle to overcome if they want to defend African title‚ says Mosimane

Mamelodi Sundowns face a mental hurdle that could be more imposing than the physical one trying to defend their Caf Champions League title‚ coach Pitso Mosimane suggested after a 2-1 defeat against Esperance Sportive de Tunis.

Downs lifted themselves for a fairly snappy first half in their Group C game at Lucas Moripe Stadium‚ fighting back from Yassine Khenissi’s sixth-minute opener through Sibusiso Vilakazi’s 21st-minute equaliser.

But in a slow game between two tired teams‚ both at the end of long domestic seasons‚ the Brazilians could not press for a winner in the second half‚ and substitute Soumahoro Bangaly’s reckless foul led to a 90th-minute penalty winner by Khenissi.

Mosimane admitted that Downs will need to bolster their Champions League chances making fresh‚ quality signings‚ especially in the light of central defender Motjeka Madisha limping off.

Madisha added to an injury list that includes fellow centrebacks Wayne Arendse and Ricardo Nascimento‚ Khama Billiat‚ Hlompo Kekana and Anthony Laffor.

But Mosimane said Downs’ battle will be as much mental as physical lifting themselves for yet another sacrifice of their off-season to try to defend their title.

“It’s a difficult one‚ let’s be honest‚ when you lose another centreback. At least we have a little bit of time (before Downs meeting Esperance again in Tunisia on June 21)‚” the coach said.

“Hopefully Madisha will recover. But you won’t get Wayne and you won’t get Ricardo.

“You have to go with it the way it is – what are you going to do? It’s part of the game. It’s a professional sport‚ you’re going to get injuries.

“And I was telling the guys today: ‘What you’re going through now‚ and went through last year of playing right through June and July‚ you’re going to do again’.

“It’s our lives. we’re going to have to strengthen (the squad). We need to get more numbers.

“And the players need to box smart at home‚ and focus on what they have to focus on. And leave what they’re not supposed to do.

“I said to them‚ ‘You have to prioritise to say‚ do you want to go through this for a fourth year in a row?’ Because it’s been tough. It’s been difficult.

“But we won it last year. We should not be trying to find excuses for this year. We need to get more numbers and the players need to prioritise.”

Sundowns are believed to be in the market for at least three quality players for the Champions League and next domestic season. Mosimane stressed that it is a difficult task finding the right quality and type of player.

“You have to be very careful adding more numbers. More numbers can also kill your flow‚” he said.

“Because you need the flow of the game‚ and players who fit in easy as that.

“But it’s very difficult in the local market. You know the players we want to have – you have to see if you can get them.”

Downs have drawn 0-0 at home against Ethiopia’s St George and beaten DR Congo’s AS Vita 3-1 away in this year’s group stage.