Although they are ambitious, Masandawana can still survive without a league trophy this season
Following a defeat to Orlando Pirates last week, the reigning PSL champions managed to bounce back and clinched a 2-1 win over neighbours SuperSport United on Sunday.
The victory sees the Tshwane giants still occupying the second spot on the log, trailing Kaizer Chiefs by seven points from 18 matches.
Goal takes a look at why the Brazilians can afford to let go of their PSL title chase and solely focus on making history to become the first South African club to lift two Caf Champions League trophies.
Why is it not important to chase for PSL honours?
Sundowns are undoubtedly one of the most successful teams when it comes to the league having already clinched nine PSL titles since the formation of the Premier Soccer League.
With their ever-growing fan base, this means the Chloorkop-based club should always challenge for big trophies but it’s also important to look at the priorities.
However, Sundowns have not been in their best form when looking at their domestic run, but are doing exceptionally well in the continental competition.
They have picked up 10 wins so far out of 18 matches in the league, have lost three and drew five in the current campaign, but they are finding it hard to narrow the gap opened by Chiefs.
Amakhosi have 42 points from the same number of matches having only suffered two defeats, but a seven points-gap is not as big as many argue.
Although coach Pitso Mosimane’s men are known to improve as the season progresses, it remains to be seen if they will be able to topple coach Ernst Middendorp’s men who have occupied the top spot since the start of the season.
The two sides are yet to meet in the second round and Amakhosi are yet to face the likes of Bidvest Wits and the Buccaneers for a second time as well. These are the matches which could have a say is as far as the title is concerned.
The Telkom Knockout Cup glory
The Brazilians’ recent TKO Cup glory has undoubtedly brought delight to the fans and the players, but that could also open a door for them to chase continental glory.
Compared to their rivals Sundowns currently enjoy success and have already won a trophy this season whilst the same cannot be said for their peers.
As defending league champions, the pressure is not really on Mosimane and his men to bring the title home, but bringing the ‘big fish’ as Mosimane would call the Champions League, would be a massive accomplishment.
On the other hand, Chiefs have been consistent so far under Middendorp and they look like they could run away with the title and Mosimane is aware that focusing on too many tournaments, brings some challenges to his team, particularly in terms of player availability.
Without making excuses, these are the challenges that have made it difficult for the Masandawana boss to close the gap and possibly catch up with the Glamour Boys this term.
Themba Zwane’s absence in the first round clash against Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld Stadium and against Josef Zinnbauer’s side last week have hit the former African champions very hard.
As they have lifted their second TKO Cup gold medal under Mosimane’s guidance, Sundowns are able to focus on the continent and grow their brand rather than having sleepless nights trying to figure out how to topple Amakhosi, who are desperate for league glory.
Caf Champions League ambitions
Having already cemented a spot in the knockout stage of the tournament, Sundowns can only look to consolidate their top spot with a win away from home next weekend.
They are on the road to Angola’s Petro Luanda and Mosimane challenged his men to go for a kill to ensure they have at least 13 points.
Should they achieve a win, they will be guaranteed of a first-leg tie away from home in the quarter-final. That will put them among the favourites to win this year’s edition as they have only conceded once with no defeats in the group stages.
As they look to successfully complete their Group C assignments on a high, Sundowns could be without right-back and winger Thapelo Morena for the trip to Luanda but the 2-0 win in the reverse fixture makes them favourites to come back with a victory.
Although Jingles seems to suggest that Chiefs are difficult to chase, saying they need to focus on the league, one would also argue that the PSL is less glorious compared to the Champions League.
Should Sundowns win this year’s Champions League, they will become the first South African club to play at the new Fifa Club World Cup, and having two stars on the badge could bring more bragging rights at Chloorkop.
On the other hand, winning it will bring more satisfaction and integrity to players such as skipper Hlompho Kekana who could become the first skipper to win it on two occasions – considering his age, a second star could be ‘KK’s best achievement.
Although there’s the rivalry between Chiefs and Sundowns and bragging rights to consider, deserting their PSL title ambitions does not sound like a disaster if they are successful in their quest to catch the ‘big fish’.