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It’s a tricky affair’: Manqoba Mngqithi on Sundowns’ Champions League draw

Sazi Hadebe Sports reporter
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi knows the challenges that comes with travelling on the African continent.
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi knows the challenges that comes with travelling on the African continent.
Image: Lefty Shivambu

“It’s a tricky affair‚” that’s how Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi described the draw after the former champions were drawn against DR Congo’s TP Mazembe‚ Sudan’s Al Hilal and CR Belouizdad of Algeria in Group C of the 2020-21 Caf Champions League edition.

The 2016 champions will first host Al Hilal on February 12 before visiting Belouizdad in Algeria on February 23 in the first two of their group stage matches.

Mngqithi‚ who was Pitso Mosimane’s assistant when Sundowns won the tournament in 2016‚ said travelling to DR Congo‚ Algeria and Sudan will be one challenging part of their campaign.

“It’s quite tricky‚” said Mngqithi.

“At this stage of the championship you can expect anything but one would have wanted to have a little bit more of direct flights which is probably what we might not get.

“Even Lubumbashi (DR Congo) doesn’t have direct flights at this stage.

“But in terms of opponents it’s a very tricky affair because Al Hilal is one team that is looking a little bit stronger.

“It’s a team that we have to tread carefully against and the travelling to that side (Sudan) is not always the easiest.

"Let’s just hope that when we play them at home we can get the maximum points.”

Mngqithi highlighted that playing without fans against Mazembe in DR Congo will be a big plus to his side as they would avoid the intimidating atmosphere that the Mazembe fans always come with when they’re supporting their team at their stomping venue at the Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi.

“But Mazembe is always a tricky affair. One would be a little bit fortunate that the supporters are not coming to the stadiums because that environment (Lubumbasi) can look very hostile for the youngsters.

“But I believe we’ve got what it takes to compete in that space.”

Mngqithi also warned against taking Belouizdad lightly simply because unlike Mazembe‚ who have won the Champions League five times‚ the Algerian champions have no history of winning any of Africa’s club competitions. “Belouizdad from Algerian is the new kid on the block but we have to treat very carefully‚” said the Sundowns coach.

“The only bad thing with that trip (Algeria) is that it’s never a direct flight. We have to go to Europe and at times to Dubai and come back to Algeria.

“It’s a strain on the team but we hope we’re going to able to get it right.”