While Orlando Pirates may be the official opponents on the field, Mokwena acknowledged that the real challenge lies within his own team.
As the Sundowns juggernaut gears up to face off against Pirates at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the outcome of the final could epend on whether Sundowns can conquer their internal battles.
Mamelodi Sundowns prepares for the MTN8 final while hoping for a clean game
Speaking to the media, Mokwena was under no illusions about the challenge that Orlando Pirates poses.
In his assessment, he acknowledged, “It's a difficult opponent with some very good players on the pitch, an opponent that's playing its third cup final as a group.”
Sundowns are well aware of the magnitude of the assignment and is determined to give it their all.
One of the key concerns Mokwena raised is the physicality and the potential for injuries in games against Pirates.
He recalled past incidents where Sundowns players suffered severe injuries, impacting their performance.
Mokwena hoped for a game that focuses more on football and less on contentious issues on the field.
“We understand the magnitude of the assignment, and we have to go for it as well,” he continued.
“Hopefully, it’s a very good game of football, without the harassment of referees and without the physicality, with tackles that are over the top.
“In almost every game against Pirates we lose a player with a very severe injury. Hashim Domingo, in the Carling Cup. [Abubeker] Nassir is still not here because of the situation with [Pirates' goalkeeper, Siyabonga] Mpontshane.
“In the last game, [Nkosinathi] Sibisi took Marcelo [Allende] out on the half-way line with his studs up, two-footed tackle. Marcelo hasn't really recovered from that.
“I am hoping for a game that doesn't have too much of those … we have more football, and people are able to talk about the football and less about the handbags. The things on the periphery.”
The upcoming final is expected to be a closely contested and emotionally charged match, reminiscent of Sundowns' encounters in the Champions League.
However, the physicality and intensity often associated with such games are at odds with Sundowns' commitment to playing beautiful, possession-based football.
Mokwena striving for balance
Coach Mokwena acknowledged the challenge of finding the right balance between winning and playing attractive football.
“We try to do our utmost to find balance,” he stated.
Maintaining this equilibrium becomes even more complicated with a congested fixture list and limited training time.
Despite the challenges, Mokwena emphasized the importance of consistency.
“What we have to do is continue what we have been doing at this moment in time – we have found the balance between the two,” he asserted.
Sundowns aim to maintain a pragmatic approach that delivers results while staying true to their footballing philosophy.
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 months ago