As the only South African team left in tournament, Sundowns reached the group stages of Africa’s premier club competition for a third successive season following their 2-0 aggregate victory over Rwanda’s Rayon Sports.
The last 16 teams remaining in the tournament then entered the group stage draw which was conducted in Egypt, with the Brazilians pitted in a competitive group C alongside Guinea’s Horoya AC, AS Togo-Port form Togo and defending champions Wydad Casablanca.
Here, KickOff.com breaks down each opponent:
The Guinean club are one of five teams in the competition to reach the group stages of the Champions league for the first time. Having won the Guinean Ligue 1 for a third straight season last year, they easily negotiated both rounds of qualifiers this year, beating Niger’s AS FAN and Senegalese side Generation Foot to make club history and book their place in the group stages.
South African opposition are no strangers to Horoya – they came up against Downs’ Pretoria rivals SuperSport United in the group stages of the CAF Confederation Cup last year, earning a 2-2 draw in the South African capital before playing out a goalless draw at home, as they exited the competition after finishing third in Group D, just a point behind eventual runners up SuperSport.
Horoya currently sit top of their domestic league, three points ahead of second-placed Hafia after 16 matches, with two games in hand.
The second team in Group C to reach this stage of the competition for the first time, AS Togo-Sport won their maiden domestic league title last year, as they entered unchartered waters in the Champions League qualifiers. Facing up against Congolese giants AC Leopards, they lost the first leg 2-1 away before reversing that scoreline at home, and went on to edge their more illustrious rivals 4-3 on penalties to advance. Sudan’s Al-Hilal awaited in their next qualifier, as again the Togolese side snuck through, winning 2-0 at home and progressing on the away goals rule following a 3-1 loss in Sudan.
Mosimane acknowledged this team are an unknown entity after the draw, and will be wary of a team that have lost just one of their last six games in all competitions. They do however sit fifth in their domestic league standings after 18 games, seven points behind leaders Koroki, but with two games in hand.
Sundowns are well aware of the threat posed by the Moroccan giants, who knocked them out of the competition via penalties in last year’s quarter-finals en route to beating Al Ahly in the final to lift their second Champions League trophy. They then followed up that success with a 1-0 win over TP Mazembe in last month to claim their maiden CAF Super Cup crown.
Reaching the group stages this year was made easy following their first leg 7-2 home victory against Ivory Coast’s Williamsville Athletic Club. They would lose the second leg 2-0, but were comfortable 7-4 aggregate winners to book their spot in the group stages of the competition for a third straight season.
League winners for the 19th time in their history last year, Casablanca currently sit 7th in their league standings after 20 matches played, 11 points behind leaders Ittihad Tanger with a game in hand.
Sundowns will open their group stage account at home against Casablanca on the weekend of 4-6 May, with their second fixture away at Horoya set for 15 May.
Therafter, the competition takes a two-month break over the World Cup, with Downs resuming continental matters with an away trip to AS Togo-Port on 17 July.