Sundowns’ rotation policy could leave Al Ahly dizzy




African News Agency


THERE will be an almighty outcry from millions of Al Ahly fans if the indomitable Mamelodi Sundowns taste defeat against Al Hilal in their CAF Champions League match in Sudan this afternoon. The upshot of a Sundowns defeat is that the 10-time CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly will not reach the knockout stages of the competition. They will be eliminated regardless of the outcome of their final Group B game next month. In a country of 107 million football-mad fans, it will be regarded as a failure of monumental proportions and their Swiss coach Marcel Koller will be sent packing instantly. It will be equally hard to swallow a Sundowns defeat because last week they destroyed the pride of Egypt with a 5-2 win at Loftus. One person who will not give much thought to Al Ahly’s pending fate will be Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena. Given Al Ahly’s terrific Champions League track record, Sundowns may be better off if Africa’s Team of the Century, as Al Ahly are known, fails to reach the knockout stage. Sundowns have two group games remaining but have already qualified for the knockout phase. Today, they play Al Hilal and in two weeks’ time, they host the winless Cameroon side, Coton Sport. In their final group match, Al Hilal play Al Ahly and depending on this weekend’s results, that match may be a ‘dead rubber’ because the top two log positions would have been decided. Al Hilal will not be too happy with Sundowns in Sudan after their media co-ordinator Khaled Ali allegedly offered some information to Al Ahly in a social media post. The information was about how Al Ahly could defeat Al Hilal. The Sundowns hierarchy took strong exception to the news and Ali was recalled to South Africa from Sudan. Ali and another Sundowns official were in Sudan since last weekend to prepare the way for the team’s arrival. Ali will be under immediate investigation. While Ali was in Sudan he was quizzed by the local media about Sundowns possibly taking it easy against Al Hilal and losing the match. Ali responded: “There are no intentions that the team will lose the match deliberately, this is an insult to us. “Sundowns is only playing to win matches. It is important to be on the top of the group and win the CAF Champions League.” After last week’s match at Loftus, it also crossed Koller’s mind that Sundowns could deliberately lose against Al Hilal. “I hope that Sundowns will play the next two games fairly,” said Koller. Some media reports point to Sundowns fielding a vastly changed team for the purpose of rotation. Should that happen, Sundowns could field an untried combination and the team could battle to impose themselves on the opposition. Two weeks ago, Sundowns made seven changes to their team for a Premiership match and the 10th-placed team, Stellenbosch FC, held them to a draw. For Sundowns, the runaway log leaders, it was a chance for rotation. With a bit of luck, Stellenbosch could even have won the match. Now that Sundowns have already qualified for the knockout stages, today’s match again offers a chance for rotation.