The Brazilians have established themselves as difficult to beat when playing in Pretoria in the top continental club competition
Al Hilal coach Zoran Manojlovic has expressed concern about Mamelodi Sundowns’ 19-match Caf Champions League unbeaten record but says it is always bound to be broken and is hoping that his side will finally halt that run in Saturday’s Group B match at Loftus Versfeld.
The Sudanese giants are in Pretoria where they will be facing Downs who last lost at home in the Champions League in 2018.
That worries the Manojlovic who however believes that the Brazilians could be tamed in their own backyard.
“When we came here and after travelling, we had a few days to prepare for this big game. We will play one of the big teams in Africa, Mamelodi Sundowns who are very strong and stronger at home. We prepared for this big game, very hard game to do our best,” Manojlovic told the media.
“Yes [I’m worried to meet a team that is strong at home]. I said it that Mamelodi Sundowns are very strong at home, 19 games without defeat. But someday they must lose for the first time and I hope it will be tomorrow [Saturday].”
Manojlovic is not new to coming up against Sundowns and is aware of the task at hand.
The Serb-Portuguese was in charge of Wydad Casablanca during Sundowns’ last visit to Morocco where the two sides drew 0-0 in December 2019.
“I faced Mamelodi Sundowns in the group phase when I was with Wydad and we drew in Casablanca, Morocco 0-0,” said Manojlovic.
“It was a very hard game, very tactical game with small opportunities to score for both teams. I remember very good Mamelodi Sundowns players who impressed me too much. Also, Sundowns are different when they play at home and play away. At home they are too strong but we are prepared for them and we will see what will happen in this game.”
The Al Hilal coach also identified Brazilian defender and vice-captain Ricardo Nascimento as the Downs player he is most aware of.
“Ricardo Nascimento played in Portugal for Moreirense [in the second-tier] and then in the top division [for Academica Coimbra]. I remember he is a very good player, very experienced player, he is a Brazilian player. We must take care of this player,” Manojlovic said.
Meanwhile, Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena says they have all the information they need on Al Hilal.
The Sudanese giants eliminated Ugandan champions Vipers as well as Ghanaian giants Asante Kotoko to reach the Champions League group stage.
They are also yet to lose a match in the Sudani Premier League this season where they are second on the standings with just a point below Al Merreikh.
“They are not a closed book as we have watched their games, we watched the games against Asante Kotoko in the qualifiers,” Mokwena said.
“Their league is ongoing and they are unbeaten, they are a free-scoring side and they are one point behind the team that is number one with a game in hand. They play a 4-2-3-1 formation. They have two centre-backs who are comfortable on the ball and can start at the back.
“They are also good with set-pieces and they use Faris Abdalla who has quality delivery. Mohamed Ouattara is a very important player in terms of their first phase of build-up and can play the long ball behind the defence. We are prepared for the game on Saturday.”