Orlando Pirates are aiming to return to winning ways in the CAF Champions League preliminary rounds at the Orlando Stadium, in Soweto on Friday evening. Pirates will host Botswana league defending champions, Jwaneng Galaxy, in the second leg encounter. Bucs are trailing by a goal to nil, and will have to score twice without conceding, if they are to progress to the group stage of Africa’s elite inter-club competition.
Pirates are currently experiencing a slump under Spanish coach Jose Riveiro. The team recently lost three matches in a row without scoring a single goal. Their first loss was to Jwaneng Galaxy in Gaborone two weeks ago.
Three days later, they suffered another slender defeat in their own backyard to run-away log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns. On Sunday they lost their third match in a row, this time to Stellenbosch FC in the second leg of the MTN-8.
“We have an important game ahead of us, one of the most important this season, if not the most important and we are just preparing ourselves for that moment to give our best and make sure that we can find ourselves in the group stages. One of the objectives for the team this season and we have everything to make it possible so we are really looking forward to start the game,” says Riveiro.
Pirates have been let down by poor finishing. They come up against a formidable team that reached the group stages two seasons ago after shocking Tanzanian giants Simba FC.
“We need to win the game with two goals that’s the target in the end of the 90 minutes. We need to dominate the match in every scenario; we need to feel that we are applying that domination that means that we make sure that we are not running back. Football is not explicit that you can say that you are looking for a goal in the first 20 minutes,” Riveiro added.
The players are desperate to qualify for the group stage in order to measure themselves against the best teams on the African continent.
“From the players perspective it would mean everything for us to find ourselves in the group stages that we can be able to compete with the best the continent has to offer. You know that is what we want, that is our ambition as a group and like what the coach has said we have an opportunity again to perform well and get the desired results,” says Innocent Maela, Orlando Pirates captain.
But Pirates have failed to reach the group stage five times in 11 attempts.
“When you play a match, you play for 90 minutes. So, if you score early, it’s good but also if you score before half-time or just after half-time it’s also good. As long as you put the ball in the back of the net and make sure that you can do it within the 90 minutes, so we don’t go to matches thinking that we need to score in the first 10 minutes, 15 minutes no we don’t go into matches with that idea. We just need to make sure that we go there, and we execute the plan,” Maela added.
Pirates won the CAF Champions League in 1995 and also reached the final in 2013. In their last attempt, five seasons ago, Pirates were knocked out in the preliminary stage of the competition.