South-Africa

Who will be crowned Africa’s best?

2017-02-12 06:03

Johannesburg - On paper, winners of the CAF Champions League – the superior continental championship – should automatically win the CAF Super Cup by beating the winners of the CAF Confederation Cup.

But this is a theory far removed from reality and will be put to the test on Saturday.

Mamelodi Sundowns should brace themselves for an onslaught in the match against three-time Super Cup winners TP Mazembe as they battle it out to determine the continent’s best club at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville.

Confederation Cup champions Mazembe are out to prove that they did not belong in the second-tier contest.

One thing is for sure – it will be more than just a football battle when the two sides meet.

The two are not only fighting for dominance in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region...they have a score to settle on other fronts.

Sundowns beat Mazembe to the African Club of the Year title; while Denis Onyango and Khama Billiat also came ahead of Mazembe’s Rainford Kalaba at the CAF Awards.

This is the first time in history that two intercontinental titles – the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup – have been won by clubs from the SADC region.

Sundowns may once again be on par with Orlando Pirates – the only South African team to have won the Super Cup – if they win on Saturday. The Brazilians have already caught up with the Buccaneers by obtaining a Champions League star, and are now a game away from catching up with them on continental football titles. Pirates beat JS Kabylie of Algeria 1-0 to lift the Super Cup trophy in 1996.

Kaizer Chiefs came close to winning the Super Cup in 2002, but lost 4-1 to Egypt’s Al Ahly.

Now, Sundowns have the chance to register their name on the trophy.

However, it won’t be easy. Mazembe are the defending champions, who are chasing Al Ahly’s record of six titles. A victory will take them one above Zamalek – who are tied with Mazembe at three Super Cup titles.

The Democratic Republic of Congo giants won the CAF Super Cup in 2010, 2011 and 2016, a period during which the team transformed itself into a formidable club on the continent.

It also made history by becoming the first African club to play in the final of the 2010 Fifa Club World Cup. Sadly, they lost to Italian giants Inter Milan.

The fact that Sundowns won the CAF Champions League title, previously held by Mazembe, makes this clash even more interesting. Mazembe is still smarting from losing the title and Sundowns now stand a chance of wresting away the Super Cup trophy.

On paper, Mazembe look stronger than Sundowns. Four of their players – Djo Issama Mpeko, Merveille Bokadi, Ley Matampi and Jonathan Bolingi – have just returned from the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, where the Democratic Republic of Congo reached the quarterfinals.

Sundowns have just returned to action following a lengthy break and will have played only two competitive games before Saturday’s decider.

However, Sundowns also have some of the best talent on the continent, with the likes of Billiat, Percy Tau and Anthony Laffor expected to lead from the front. Kickoff is at 7pm.

Meanwhile, SuperSport United play ASSM Elgeco Plus of Madagascar in the preliminary round of the CAF Confederation Cup this afternoon.

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