'Sundowns won't be easy'

HARARE - Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas admitted his side has a tough task in the preliminary round of the African Champions League against South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns next February.

The Gamecocks were drawn against the Brazilians when the draw was conducted by the Confederation of African Football on Friday night in Dakar, Senegal.

Chicken Inn, who won their first domestic title in November, will be at home in the first leg on the weekend of February 12-14 before travelling to Tshwane for the second leg on the weekend of February 26-28.

If the Gamecocks are to reach the lucrative group stages of Africa’s premier club football competition, they have to do it the hard way from the first step since super-rich Sundowns will not be easy pushovers.

The Brazilians, who reached the Champions League final in 2001 before losing to Egypt’s Al Ahly, are currently riding high in the South African Absa Premiership where they are in second place after 11 matches.

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has one of the most talented and expensively-assembled squads in Africa courtesy of Patrice Motsepe’s billions.

Choorlkop is home to the hugely-talented Zimbabwean forwards Cuthbert Malajila and Khama Billiat, Liberia’s captain Anthony Laffor, Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene and the mercurial Keegan Dolly.

Veteran midfielders Teko Modise and Surprise Moriri are also still vital components of the Tshwane-based side.

This tie will be Chicken Inn’s first encounter in continental football and Antipas is fully aware of the colossal task in their hands.

“All we can say for now is that with the nature of the draw we would have loved to come up against weaker opponents in these early rounds but I guess we have to buckle up for the big game against Sundowns,” Antipas said.

“They are one of the most important teams in southern Africa and our work is cut out for us in this first round. We know we are up against a Sundowns team that is on fire in the South African Premiership.

“We just have to do our best and hope we progress to the next round by eliminating a quality side. Football is a game full of surprises and I hope that when that game comes around next year, we can spring a surprise of our own.”

Meanwhile, Mosimane is cautious of Chicken Inn and believes his side will get a tough run from the newly-crowned Zimbabwe champions.

“We certainly don’t take Chicken Inn lightly,” he told his club’s official website on Saturday.

“Actually, they are a very good side and only last week, they played in another cup semi-final. They are also the side for which Kuda Mahachi played for, and we are quite familiar with the territory.

“In addition, we have played pre-season matches in Zimbabwe during our pre-season camps.”

While Chicken Inn will be battling it out with the aristocrats of African football, Harare City will take on AS Adema of Madagascar in the first round of the African Confederation Cup.

City won the right to represent Zimbabwe in Africa’s second-tier inter-club competition after lifting the Chibuku Super Cup in October.

The Sunshine Boys will be at home in the first leg on the weekend of February 12-14 before travelling to Antananarivo for the second leg on the weekend of February 26-28.

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