CAPE TOWN – Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi is hoping the potential return of Themba Zwane will be the inspiration his team requires in their do-or-die Caf Champions League quarter-final second leg against Al Ahly at Lucas Moripe Stadium tomorrow.
Zwane missed the 2-0 first leg defeat in Cairo last week through injury.
The Premiership Player of the Year's ability to unlock the opposition's defence from midfield was glaringly absent as the Brazilians controlled all the possession, but were unable to create clear-cut chances that could penetrate the Egyptian champions' defence.
But Mngqithi is optimistic that “Mshishi” will be ready to take his place in the starting line-up tomorrow (3pm kickoff).
“Based on the report that we got from the doctors and the training that he had yesterday (Wednesday)‚ it looks very positive‚” Mngqithi told reporters.
“The doctors have indicated that he is looking well and during the training session he felt no pain. He has been training regularly trying to get himself fit‚ and we are more than optimistic that he will help us.
“Upon analysing the first leg‚ and we have done a lot on the game already‚ we do believe that Mshishi will play an immense role in the second leg.
“There are a lot of openings that he could have (found) for us. There are areas that we feel he normally occupies and were not occupied the way we would have liked for them to be occupied. We do believe that if he comes in‚ he is definitely somebody who can help the team achieve our objectives.”
Sundowns will certainly need all of Zwane's brilliance if they are going to overturn a two-goal deficit against the defending continental champions. But having thrashed Al Ahly 5-0 before at the same stadium when Zwane and fellow midfielder Gaston Sirino were at their very best, Mngqithi is confident that his charges are capable of overturning the deficit.
“If we minimise our mistakes, I believe we can get the results that we want, although I know it will be a tall order,” Mngqithi said.
“We are confident in the group that we have. I was even telling them yesterday that if anyone has the capacity to come back from this position, it is Sundowns.
“Out of all the teams we have in the country who can overcome a 2-0 deficit, it's Sundowns. I strongly believe that, because we have done it before.”
The tie which is being billed as “the game of the century” will also see Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane return to the home ground of his former team for the first time. Mosimane, of course, is royalty at Sundowns having led the club to the promised land in 2016 when the Brazilians lifted the Champions League trophy for the only time in their history.
“We are playing against an astute coach who knows what to do,” Mngqithi added. “He can play very quiet to make sure that he exposes the space behind our defence. We must be on top of our game in attack and defence to achieve the outcome we want. I am confident that if we apply ourselves and stay focused we will win.”