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Do-or-die for Sundowns in CAF Champions League

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane directs his team from the sidelines Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns' need for a victory in their CAF Champions League Group C campaign is growing ever more desperate as they welcome AS Togo-Port to Pretoria on tonight.

The 2016 champions have just two points from their opening three pool matches, and lost 1-0 in Lome to the same opposition last week in a desperately poor display in admittedly difficult conditions.

If they play anywhere near their potential they should ease past the limited west African side at home, or otherwise will find their qualification for the quarterfinals slipping from their grasp.

Defending champions Wydad Casablanca head the pool on goal-difference from Guinea side Horoya, with both clubs on five points, while Togo-Port have three.

Wydad will be expected to win at home on Saturday, which could see Sundowns move up to second with a victory.

They have a home game against Horoya and a difficult away trip to Casablanca to come, and they will not want to have to go North Africa needing a victory to qualify for the next stage.

New Zealand international forward Jeremy Brockie is hoping to add to his goal scored in a high-profile friendly against Kaizer Chiefs this past weekend, having gone nine months without netting for club or country in competitive football.

"The confidence is very high now; I feel ready to take on the Togo team if selected," Brockie told his club's website.

"When you play in these competitions, sometimes you have to move away from your normal style and adjust to what's put in front of you.

"We played on an Astroturf [in Lome]; the bounce of the ball was a little bit different compared to grass, and you have to go a little more direct to put pressure on the opposition to try and get them to make mistakes.

"We had a lot of chances in the first half in Togo to put the game away and they got one chance and punished us and then they sat in and defended for the rest of the game. We can't afford to put ourselves in that position again."

Tunisian side Esperance can seal a place in the quarterfinals on Saturday if they beat Ugandan outfit KCCA in their Group A clash, and if Al Ahly defeat Township Rollers in Botswana.

That would move Esperance to 10 points at the top of the pool and ensure they cannot finish outside of the top two with two rounds of games still to play. The scenario would also leave Ahly, under new coach Patrice Carteron, in prime position for the knockout stages.

Esperance currently have seven points, followed by Ahly (four), and KCCA and Rollers, who have three each.

DR Congo side TP Mazembe can also book their quarterfinal place, though they face a tough away day at MC Alger on Saturday. The duo are seen as the two likely qualifiers from the pool, but Mazembe have dominated so far with three wins from three.

The match will be played in Blida instead of Alger's usual home base of Algeirs, due to their stadium hosting the 2018 African Youth Games.

Mazembe have nine points, followed by Alger (four), another Algerian side in ES Setif (three) and Moroccan outfit Difaâ El Jadidi (one). The latter host Setif on Friday night.

Tunisians Etoile du Sahel are another who can seal an early berth into the next stage if they claim victory on Friday at Swaziland club Mbabane Swallows, who are currently second in the pool.

Victory for Etoile, coupled with a draw between Zambian club Zesco United and Primeiro de Agosto from Angola and the North Africans will be secure at the top of the pool.

They lead the group with seven points, followed by Swallows (four), and Zesco and Primeiro with two each.

There have been only four away wins in the 24 matches played in the pool stages so far, which gives an indication of just how difficult it is to claim success on the road.

The four clubs to have managed that feat are Mazembe (2-0 at Difaâ El Jadidi), MC Alger (1-0 at fellow Algerians ES Sétif), Horoya (2-1 at Togo-Port) and Étoile du Sahel (3-0 at Mbabane Swallows).