Cape Town - After their stunning 1-0 win over hitherto unbeaten Mamelodi Sundowns on Monday, giant-killers AmaZulu can bag another big scalp when they face Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium today.
Pirates will also go into the match on the back of a win after they shaded Marumo Gallants 2-1 at home on Monday. The two results saw Pirates and AmaZulu move into the top three on the Premiership standings with 27 points each, behind Sundowns (43). However, Pirates have a superior goal difference and edged AmaZulu into second place.
The situation could change today, depending on the result. At this stage, Benni McCarthy’s AmaZulu are favourites to win. Ahead of the Gallants fixture, Pirates were winless from two matches and they looked ordinary in their 4-1 defeat to Sundowns last Friday.
Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi is concerned about fatigue catching up with his players in what will be their final league game of the year. After Monday’s match, he said he could see the players were buckling under the workload.
“I could see the players dropping back, and we couldn’t press,” said Ncikazi. “We play a high-energy game, and then we had to resort into position two, drop a line a bit, but again we were not pressing.
“It was very important that we won and take points after from the catastrophic performance (against Sundowns) or result that we come from. Normally, after such a setback, you will always wait for the comeback.
“I was worried again in the second half because the schedule told us now that the fatigue was catching up with us. We are playing every two days. I know every team is facing that, but you could see the energy was depleted in our team.”
There is no talk of fatigue coming from AmaZulu, who are unbeaten in 11 matches.
In their last five matches, they have recorded back-to-back wins and three consecutive draws.
McCarthy is ready to take the fight to Pirates in their backyard and has urged his charges to show the same bravery they did against Sundowns.
“Finally, something, a bit of consistency for the team, but we were made to work exceptionally hard against Sundowns,” said McCarthy. “I have to give the players credit for showing bravery, we were brave.
“We’ll just continue to fight (against Pirates), but we know we are far from it (winning the league).
As long as we produce these kinds of performances, it is the mindset that’s what we need from these guys. Then we can get ourselves going again, and we can get closer to where we should be.”
Zambia striker Augustine Mulenga may have done enough to win a place in the starting team this time, rather than play off the bench.
Mulenga will be up against his former team and after his wonder strike against Sundowns will be a marked man.
Central defender Tapelo Xoki picked up the man-of-the-match award against Sundowns as he literally shut out their attack each time they ventured close to AmaZulu’s goalmouth. The lanky Cape Town-born Xoki was particularly effective in the aerial duels, and AmaZulu will be looking to him for a repeat performance.
Pirates will be pinning their hopes on Thembinkosi Lorch, who has returned from a long injury-enforced lay-off with excellent form. He had a hand in both Pirates’ goals against Gallants. He could pose a problem for AmaZulu’s defence and create chances for his front-runners.
McCarthy will single out Ghanaian striker Kwame Peprah for special attention today.
After a lean run, Peprah burst into life with a match-winning contribution of two goals, and it may just prove to be the catalyst for his changing fortunes in the striking zone.