Mosimane about-turns on Sundowns’ PSL title chances

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane during the CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Leones Vegetarianos at Loftus Stadium on December 05, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane during the CAF Champions League match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Leones Vegetarianos at Loftus Stadium on December 05, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

That Mamelodi Sundowns want to retain their Premier Soccer League title is clear‚ even if coach Pitso Mosimane had previously written off their chances and emphasised that success in the Caf Champions League is a priority instead.

Otherwise why would he have kept the core of the side that endured tough physical conditions in Nigeria last Friday for Wednesday’s win over Maritzburg United‚ leaving them facing a third game in eight days when Downs return to the Champions League at the weekend?

Mosimane‚ despite explaining away their profligate spending on the need to have three players in each position to be able to challenge for multiple honours‚ does not like to change his team much‚ even if the fixtures are now piling up on him thick and fast.

The narrow 1-0 victory over Maritzburg was an example of the tug of war in his head over priorities and the gamble he is taking on his key players being able to keep up a punishing schedule of games between now and the end of May.

He has always said the Champions League is the top target. But it then begs the question: why would he have played skipper Hlompho Kekana‚ Antony Laffor‚ Ricardo Nascimento and Gaston Sirino against Maritzburg when he needs to have them fresh again on Saturday for vital group game against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in Atteridgeville?

“I knew we would need their experience because this was one of those games which we need to grind out to get the result‚” he explained after Wednesday’s win at Loftus Versfeld.

“I had hoped to get an early goal and kill off the game but that didn‘t happen and I had to keep playing them when I wanted to take them off‚ because I knew the Wydad scouts were in the crowd watching. I had to take Laffor and Gaston out but I took them off too late.”

Kekana broke the deadlock on the hour mark for a vital three points that put Sundowns breathing right down the necks of the top two teams on the log – Bidvest Wits and Orlando Pirates.

But what impact will Wednesday’s exertion have on the game against the Moroccans where Mosimane can ill afford another setback after losing 2-1 to Lobi Stars in Nigeria last weekend?

He only made four changes from the team in Nigeria for Wednesday’s game and is likely to keep much of the team intact again for Saturday against Wydad. But how long can they keep going?

“Kekana is getting better with age. I don’t know where he gets his energy levels from‚” enthused Mosimane.

“He’s got great playing wisdom but he’s also still got the legs‚ even at the age of 33.”

After Wydad‚ Sundowns play again next Tuesday against tricky Highlands Park in the league in what will then be a fourth game in the matter of 10 days.

Do not expect widespread change there either and certainly no wholesale rotation.

“I think we can win the championship [PSL]‚” Mosimane admitted for the first time.

“But you already know who I think is going to win it [seemingly suggesting Wits] and don’t write Orlando Pirates off just yet. And Kaizer Chiefs are coming back.”

Mosimane has already predicted Wits have the title in the bag – even though Sundowns have not reached the halfway mark of their fixture list.

But he obviously believes otherwise and is prepared to see how long his players can keep going‚ knowing more positive results will soon have Sundowns out in front again.

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