Ibenge tips Sundowns among CAF Champions League title favourites

Ibenge tips Sundowns among CAF Champions League title favourites

Al Hilal coach Florent Ibenge has tipped Mamelodi Sundowns among four favourites for the 2022/23 CAF Champions League title.

Ibenge, who hails from DR Congo, spoke to the media through a translator during Al Hilal’s matchday minus-one training session at Loftus Stadium yesterday, ahead of this Group B fixture at the same venue at 15:00 this afternoon. 

The Sudanese champions are once again pitted in a group with record 10-time African champions Al Ahly and Sundowns, who finished ahead of them in Group A last season.

Ibenge says the odds are again stacked against them, not only in the tournament but also in their own group, as he declared his side "underdogs" in their opening CAF Champions League group stages encounter against 2016 champions today.

"Thank you so much for [the compliments of] last time, but this is a different time and there's another team involved, and we are in a tough group with Al Ahly and Sundowns being the favourites of course," Ibenge told local media through a translator.

"But we will try to be [competitive]. We are the underdog, but we'll try to progress and not be like last year or finish fourth, but obviously, there are a few favourites for the tournament, like Raja [Casablanca], Wydad [Athletic Club], Sundowns, and Al Ahly."

The 61-year-old is also no stranger to facing Sundowns – in 2016 when the Brazilians lifted their maiden Champions League title, he had initially eliminated Pitso Mosimane’s team via the away-goal rule with AS Vita, after playing out a 2-2 draw on aggregate. 

But Vita were later eliminated from the competition for having played an ineligible player, which proved not only a lifeline but also an omen for Sundowns to go all the way. 

Ibenge says things have since changed and he’s got a different understanding of the current Sundowns team.

"It's a different game, I think. Because every game is different, it's a long time ago when we played them, we didn't have any videos and we didn't know how to assess them," he added.

"But now it's different, we can assess them because the first time we played [against them], we knew nothing about Sundowns but we managed to get a result. This time around, we know the kind of team that we are facing."

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