The Nigerian outfit is making only its second appearance in the Champions League group stages, featuring for the first time since 2000. On their way to qualifying for the round robin phase, Stars beat Kenyan giants Gor Mahia and UMS de Loum of Cameroon.
The Ortom Boys are currently top of the Nigerian Premier League standings, despite losing three of their last five domestic matches. They are yet to concede a goal at home in this year’s continental competition, so they will be looking to keep it that way when they take on Sundowns at Nnamdi Asikiwe Stadium in Enugu.
They are Nigeria’s only representatives in the group stages, so they’ve got a lot of pressure to impress a country that usually demands so much from their clubs and national team.
Sikuru Alimi has been their star player so far, with three goals in the tournament making him one of the top scorers.
Sundowns will know Wydad very well, having played them in the last two editions of the competition. Wydad have, in fact, proven to be a difficult opponent for Mosimane’s men. When they met in the group stages last year, Wydad got a draw at Lucas Moripe Stadium and then beat the Brazilians 1-0 in Casablanca. In 2017, Wydad knocked Sundowns out in the quarterfinals.
Wydad were one of the seeded teams going into this year’s tournament, so they did not contest the preliminary round. They beat Senegalese side ASC Diaraf to qualify for the group phase.
The 2017 champions play like typical north Africans, direct football with the aim of using set-pieces to score against their opponents, especially away from home. They've got loads of experience and they will use it, especially when they are away from home to try get a point. Sundowns, of course, will know what to expect and will probably have a better plan this time to overcome the Moroccan giants.
Wydad were dethroned as champions in the last edition, so they will be determined to qualify for the knockout phase and get their hands on the trophy again. Liberian William Jebor and defender Mohamed Nahiri are just some of the side’s key players.
In recent years Sundowns have signed Yannick Zakri and Soumahoro Bangaly from Asec Mimosas. The Ivorians are back in the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2016. Last time they were in the round robin phase they finished bottom of Group A on five points, behind Wydad, Zesco United and last year’s losing finalists Al Ahly.
ASEC qualified for the group stages by beating Stade Malien from Mali and Gabon’s AS Mangasport. Abdul Tapsoba has been their star performer so far with two goals in the competition and will be a man to look out for when the Brazilians meet the Ivorians later in the group stages. They’ve kept three clean sheets in four matches in the competition, which shows that their defence is not easily breached. Obviously the group stage campaign will bring tougher opposition, but conceding just once in the preliminary round will give them a lot of confidence.