Sundowns host third-placed Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld Saturday (3.30pm) and are under pressure to start winning in order to claw their way up the log standings having only played three matches, while all but a few of their PSL rivals have played five more.
The Brazilians were held back by their CAF Champions League commitments, a competition they were so impressive in that they went all the way to win it by beating Egyptian giants Zamalek 3-1 over two legs last month.
But the reality of domestic football is slowly sinking in for talisman Billiat and his teammates, who have managed a single victory from their three matches, leaving them second from the foot of the PSL table.
Pitso Mosimane, the Sundowns coach, has claimed his players are lacking the appetite to win league matches having come off the high of being crowned African champions and heading to the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan in December.
“It’s going to be hard to catch-up, but we need to show character, professionalism and respect the game,” said Billiat, the current Footballer of the Year.
“We need to be strong and not be comfortable counting all those games in hand thinking we have three points already. We need to work hard and bring the best out of everyone.
“We know every game is important and becomes a final because we can’t afford to drop points as we are behind already.”
Sundowns’ league opener against Maritzburg United, three weeks after the 2016/17 season had officially kicked off, was a goalless draw and then they were brought back to earth by Cape Town City, who beat them 2-1 a week after the Brazilians had clinched the Champions League title.
But they recovered with a 2-0 win over Polokwane City away from home and now face a Chiefs side that’s winless in three games in all competitions.
“We need to start playing our best football as preparation for the Club World Cup as well,” said Billiat.
“They are a good team, Chiefs. They can hurt you from any angle, so we need to make sure we do our basics right and make sure we don’t concede. We would rather create more chances to score goals.”
Sundowns have struggled up front without Colombian hitman Leonardo Castro, who suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for three months, forcing him to miss the Champions League final and several other key matches.
He was back at training this week and Mosimane said he would get a maximum of 20 minutes on the pitch as he works back his match fitness.
Billiat can’t wait for the return of a man who scored 13 goals in 27 domestic football matches in his maiden season.
”He (Castro) is looking sharp,” he said.
“ We know he adds value with his aerial strength and we missed him a lot. We don’ t have much height up front and that is obviously one of his strengths and we need his presence. He can score goals at any time and from anywhere.”
Follow Mazola Molefe on Twitter@superjourno
Original source: Sundowns have their work cut out, says Billiat