Mamelodi Sundowns have been handed the favourites tag against their two Sudanese opponents in the CAF Champions League group stages despite the period of inactivity that they have had to sit on.
Due to the Africa Cup Of Nations competition, Sundowns last played before Christmas and will return to action next month. The Brazilians had no player representation at the AFCON finals while their first two opponents in the group stages, Al Hilal Omdurman and Al Merreikh both provided half of the players in Sudan’s 28 men squad.
The Brazilians host Al Hilal on February 11 in the CAF Champions League before traveling to Al Merreikh the following week and then further up north to Al Ahly for their third match in the competition within a fortnight.
Al Hilal had seven players in the Sudanese squad namely – Ali Abu Eshrein, Abdel Raouf, Mohamed Abdelrahman, Gumaa Abas, Mustafa Elfadni, Ishaq Adam and Waliedin Khedr.
Then with Al Merreikh they also had the same numbers in captain Salaheldin Nemer, Mustafa Karshoum, Mohamed Hossein, Mohamed Al Rashed, Dhiya Mahjoub, Al-Jezoli Nouh and Mohamed Mustafa.
However, the two Sudanese clubs last played in October, while their domestic league only starts next month (February 8).
"The Sundowns match with the two Sudanese teams is difficult, especially since the league in Sudan has not started," says Sudanese journalist Dar Al-Naim Abdin.
"The South African league, which is known for its strength and competition, is continuing (after the break). This confirms that the South African team will be ready unlike the clubs from Sudan whose league has not started. The clubs here are satisfied with only friendly matches to prepare for the match.
"However, I wish the Sudanese teams to win despite the difference in equipment and capabilities between the South African and Sudanese clubs," says Abdin.
The Brazilians will need to finish either first or second in the group to proceed to the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly have six players in the Egyptian team at AFCON playing Ivory Coast in the last eight on Wednesday.