Johannesburg - Mamelodi Sundowns can
continue an amazing four-month transition from flops to tops if they avoid
defeat at home to Zamalek of Egypt Wednesday in the CAF Champions League.
A point at Lucas 'Masterpieces' Moripe
Stadium near Pretoria will suffice to seal first place in Group B and take the
South African side to the semi-finals of the premier African club football
It will also complete a remarkable
turnaround for Sundowns, who were eliminated in the final qualifying round for
the Champions League last April by V Club from the Democratic Republic of
Demoted to the second-tier CAF
Confederation Cup, Sundowns were beaten by Medeama of Ghana in a play-off to
suffer further African disappointment.
But on the eve of June draw for the
Champions League groups, the organisers kicked out V Club for using a banned
player and Sundowns were reinstated.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane hastily
cancelled plans to watch the Copa America centenary edition in the United
States and his squad had to abandon holidays with families and friends.
Given a third chance to succeed in Africa,
Sundowns shocked Entente Setif in Algeria only to have the 2-0 win scrapped
when the losers were disqualified over a pitch invasion.
Undismayed, Sundowns beat twice African
champions Enyimba of Nigeria near Pretoria and five-time African champions
Zamalek in Cairo to build a three-point lead halfway through the group stage.
"We hope we do not have to wake up
from this dream" said former national team striker and coach Mosimane
ahead of the matchday 4 clash with Zamalek.
"I think we have found a way of
playing successfully against north African opponents and making it difficult
for them to beat us.
"It is wonderful to watch my team
playing with such enjoyment and fearlessness. Our mental approach has been a
Zamalek will miss injured midfielder
Mohamed Ibrahim, who scored in the 2-1 defeat by Sundowns, but are likely
semi-finalists whatever the Pretoria result as they host Enyimba next month.
Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Zesco
United of Zambia will also secure semi-finals places from Group A if both win.
The Moroccans host bottom-of-the-table Al
Ahly of Egypt, winners of the competition a record eight times, while the
Zambians are away to ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast.
Ahly have managed just one point from a
possible nine under Netherlands-born former Tottenham Hotspur manager Martin
Jol with goalkeeping blunders and a goal-shy attack proving costly.
Wydad have rewarded coach John Toshack, the
ex-Wales striker and manager, for a good CAF run with a two-year extension to
his contract until June 2018.
They top the table with seven points, Zesco
have six, ASEC three and Ahly just one.
Toshack will hope for a return to form by
leading scorer Reda Hajhouj, who averaged a goal a game in six qualifiers only
to fire three blanks in group matches.
ASEC must improve a dismal CAF home record
this season of one win in four matches to beat Zesco and get back into
contention for a last-four place.