African Champions League: Sundowns on brink of fairytale victory

Sundowns dominated Zamalek in the first leg
Sundowns dominated Zamalek in the first leg a week agao

Mamelodi Sundowns are hoping that history repeats itself and that a three-goal advantage going into Sunday's second leg of the African Champions League final will be enough to secure the continental crown at the expense of their Egyptian hosts Zamalek.

The 3-0 win in last Saturday's first leg in Atteridgeville has put the South Africans in a comfortable position with only one club - Mouloudia Alger 40 years ago - ever previously able to overturn a three-goal deficit after the first leg of the final.

Sundowns were emphatic in their first-leg victory and might have won by a bigger margin.

They are expected to be able to score again as Zamalek will need to attack almost from the opening minute in their attempt to try and claw back the deficit, leaving the South Africans able to catch them on the counter-attack.

But coach Pitso Mosimane has to reshuffle his defence after Wayne Arendse was cautioned in the first leg and misses the return through suspension.

It means Thabo Nthethe will pair up with Ivory Coast import Bangaly Soumaharo in a combination of two central defenders who have rarely played together.

For the rest, Sundowns will field the same side with the midfield prowess of Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabuda complemented by the forward pace of Khama Billiat, Keegan Dolly and Percy Tau.

Zamalek are hoping Ahmed Fathi might be able to make it back to fill their troublesome left-back position.

A long-term injury has kept him out since June and with no other natural left-back at the club, Zamalek have used a succession of different players in the position.

In the first leg of the final it was defensive midfielder Maarouf Yusuf who was given the left-back job and it was only in the second half when they switched him back into the centre, and brought Ramzi Khaled on as full-back, that Zamalek were able to stem Sundowns' midfield dominance.

Belief or bluster?

Zamalek coach Momed Soliman made much of being able to fight back when he spoke to reporters after the first leg but he appeared to lack genuine conviction.

Sundowns are seeking to become only the second South African outfit to win Africa's top club prize, some 21 years since Orlando Pirates achieved the feat.

It would complete for 'The Brazilians' a fairytale triumph, given they had been eliminated in the preliminary rounds but handed a berth in the group phase when the Congolese club AS Vita Club were found to have fielded a player supposed to be suspended after a red card.

Sundowns took their second chance with gusto and dominated their group, including beating Zamalek both home and away in July.

They have now won three in a row against the Egyptians, who are five-time African champions but have suffered a drought of more than a decade since they last had success.

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