THE BIG PREVIEW: Africa awaits ’game of the century’ between Al Ahly and Sundowns
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The #iKasico may be the biggest drawcard on the South African football calender, but Mamelodi Sundowns and Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League is on an entirely different level for it is "the game of the century".
The Mzansi and Egyptians champions are giants of Africa and when they meet tonight in the first leg quarter-final at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo (9pm SA time) the entire continent will come to a standstill.
It is a contest that has everyone salivating at the lips in anticipation with the sub-plot of former Sundowns mastermind Pitso Mosimane now in being charge of the Red Devils heightening the rivalry and respect for each other even more.
“I consider it the game of the century because all of Africa is interested in it. Every team knows the other. We respect Al Ahly and know how dangerous they are," said Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi.
It certainly is going to be a huge task for Sundowns to come away with anything in the Egyptian capital ahead of returning to Tshwane next week for the second leg. The Masandawana have yet to beat Al Ahly in Cairo in their previous encounters and will be hoping its third time lucky this evening.
"We are expecting a very tough encounter. We are playing one of the most serious teams in Africa. We are also playing the Champions of the same competition. The same champions that we have played in the last three years if I am counting this game. It's a team we have struggled to beat in Egypt all the years," Mngqithi said.
The battle between the coaches will certainly be an intriguing one with the Sundowns staff, particularly, holding Mosimane in high esteem for leading the Brazilians to the CAF Champions League in 2016.
Both Mngqithi, who succeeded Mosimane, and fellow co-coach Rhulani Mokwena previously worked very closely with "Jingles".
Mngqithi, though, believes neither will have an advantage because both benches knows the other very well with Mosimane also having another experienced South African coach Cavin Johnson as his assistant at Al Ahly.
"I previously worked with Mosimane for six years and he knows how we think, but we also know how he thinks," said Mngqithi.
"Facing Mosimane? I respect every coach of any team. We respect Mosimane very much and he was a member of our system, but let’s see now who will win the last test,” he added.
Sundowns have received a major boost ahead of the game with star playmaker Themba Zwane passed fit for the big clash.