‘No need to panic over Downs poor form’

Feutmba backs Rulani’s charges to overcome quarterfinal curse

Nkareng Matshe Sports editor
Roger Feutmba is adamant his former team Sundowns have everything under control.
Roger Feutmba is adamant his former team Sundowns have everything under control.
Image: Gavin Barker/Gallo Images

A wretched run of four winless matches suggests this could be the worst time for Mamelodi Sundowns to be heading in the CAF Champions League phase that has proven too problematic for them, but Roger Feutmba is convinced they will come out unscathed even as they lack form.

Sundowns take on Algeria’s CR Belouizdad in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal tomorrow (Nelson Mandela Stadium, 9pm), a stage they’ve failed to pass in the past three editions, and travelling to North Africa in their worst run has even their most ardent fans worried.

Feutmba, who was a Downs star in the late 90s to early 2000s, is not one of those panicking over the Brazilians’ sudden dip in form, which has seen them go winless in three league games and relinquishing the Nedbank Cup after a shock first defeat under Rulani Mokwena to Stellenbosch last weekend.

“When you look at recent matches, you can see that Sundowns were not playing their regular team because they’ve already won the league,” Feutmba reasoned. “The coach (Mokwena) was rotating the team to give others a chance and when you do that, you lose momentum. But heading into (tomorrow’s match) I expect to see the normal team which has done so well in the Champions League. There’s no reason to doubt them.”

It is true that upon being confirmed as champions on April 1, Sundowns have not used the exact starting XI in their past four games which all have failed to produce a win. But Mokwena didn’t necessarily overhaul the team, only bringing in Haashim Domingo, Rushine de Reuck, Abdelmounaim  Boutouil, Bongani Zungu, Abubaker Nasir, Gaston Sirino, Sifiso Ngobeni and Denis Onyango among the minimal changes he made to the starting XIs of these clashes.

“You can’t expect the same results when you bring in players who lack match fitness,” said Feutmba, who reached the 2001 Champions League final with Sundowns. “But also you can’t play the same team when the league is already won. Those players who rested will return (tomorrow) and it should be business as usual. Remember what they did to Al Ahly (in the group match, where Sundowns won 5-2).”

Feutmba expects Sundowns to reach the semifinals but has cautioned them against repeating mistakes of the past, like last year when they missed a glut of chances – including a penalty – against Petro Atletico of Angola to suffer another quarterfinal exit.

“They haven’t made mistakes in the Champions League thus far, so clearly they’ve learnt from the past. They must go for a win in Algeria so that when they return to SA, they (Belouizdad) can be more open. Sundowns play according to one philosophy and that is to have possession. If they do that they won’t concede and will create chances to score.”

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