Orlando Pirates are bracing themselves for a bruising battle against South Africa’s football team of the moment, Mamelodi Sundowns. The two teams will battle it out battle in a Nedbank Cup quarter-final match at the Loftus Versfeld on Thursday evening.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in March, but had to be postponed due to the busy schedules of the two teams who are also campaigning in CAF inter-club competitions.
☠ ? ???? ????? ?
? #NedbankCup2021 Quarterfinal
⚽️ @Masandawana vs @orlandopirates
? Thursday, 15 April 2021
? Loftus Versfeld Stadium
? SuperSport PSL
⚫⚪?⭐#OrlandoPirates #OnceAlways pic.twitter.com/DD62rTrmCo
— Orlando Pirates FC (@orlandopirates) April 12, 2021
Sundowns are still the only unbeaten side in the DSTV Premiership after 20 rounds of matches. The Brazilians are currently enjoying a six-point lead at the top of the log, despite having played the least number of games.
The 2016 CAF Champions League winners have also already reached the Last 8 of Africa’s premier club competition, the Caf Champions League.
The team has suffered only one loss in 28 matches played so far this season and that was last Friday in the Champions League tie against CR Belouizdad of Algeria.
Pirates Coach, Josef Zinnbauer, says Sundowns mostly play with the same players, which works for Pirates’ confidence ahead of the clash.
“I don’t know, they are now 20 games unbeaten. They’ve got a lot of trophies. In most time, it’s the same players on the pitch. I think it’s not a big advantage, but for our self-confidence, for us we know we can win the title. That’s important for us. It’s a long time ago that we won this title and it’s the time we can measure ourselves with Sundowns, who are the best team at the moment in the league, also in the Champions League. In all tournaments, it’s the best team at the moment. It’s good for our players; it’s a good experience for the players,” adds Zinnbauer.
Zinnbauer says, however, all matches are difficult, especially closer to the finals.
“All matches are difficult, especially when you go closer to the finals. We are not the favourites. We want to manage this game. We are in the quarter-final and yes, we’ve got another chance. We know we have a good squad. We have players who can win titles. We saw it in the past, but we are honest, we are playing at the moment against the best team maybe in the country.”
Pirates have already won the MTN 8 earlier this season and are gunning for their second trophy. Bucs, who are also on the brink of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup, fancy their chances against the Chloorkop-based club.
“Obviously, we are playing for a big team. We want to win things and we told ourselves that we need to change our minds, you know. We’re going into another competition. We have done it before and we want to do it again. So, our focus is on the Nedbank Cup and we want to push all out because it’s either you win or you lose. So, the most important thing we want to be winners on the day,” says Pirates Captain, Happy Jele.
Ending the six-year trophy drought
Pirates are currently on top of their game and are the only unbeaten side in their Confederations Cup group after four matches.
The Soweto giants are mathematically out of contention for the league title, and a second knock-out trophy for them this season will be a cherry on the top after they recently ended their six-year trophy drought.
Jele says the team has a responsibility to win trophies.
“This team has a huge, massive responsibility to win trophies and you know, it starts at training… put effort and perform for the team. This season, we have done it and now, it’s the time that we must continue to do it, to put more trophies in the office because the team is doing so much well to us as players,” he adds.
Pirates have already lost once to Sundowns this season and that was in the DSTV Premiership campaign early in January. The team that wins on Thursday will host Tshakhuma FC in the semi-final in Gauteng on Sunday.