Cape Town - Ajax Cape Town coach Roger de Sa has no illusions about the intensity of their fixture against in-form Bloemfontein Celtic at the Free State Stadium on Tuesday night (kick-off 7.30pm).
With two games remaining in the season - the Cape side faces Platinum Stars in its final game in Rustenburg on Saturday afternoon - both Ajax and Celtic are still in the running for a top-eight finish in the PSL standings.
The Bloemfontein team, though, in seventh position (40 points), has the inside track, with the Capetonians back in 11th spot (35 points).
If Ajax are to have any chance of making it into the top eight clubs, they will have to win both their remaining fixtures, something that De Sa admits won’t be easy, especially considering his team’s woeful form on the road.
“We have been poor away from home,” said De Sa. “It’s something that concerns me, and I will have a careful look over the next two away games to see how we go about things. Clearly, it’s an aspect we need to change.
“And Celtic on the road is one of the toughest trips in the PSL. The game will be a real test of character for these young Ajax players.
Celtic are in great form, they haven’t lost a game in a while, and, with Ernst Middendorp in charge, they have changed their approach. They are a side that try to play a lot more through the middle, rather than out wide, and they are more direct in their attacking style.
“Add to that the fact that they have fanatical home supporters, who get behind them and make it difficult for the visiting team. It will be a physical challenge and, with the crowd factor, a mental challenge as well.”
With clubs having had a week’s break, Ajax are hoping to have a few key players back from injury.
It has been a season in which quite a few in the squad have spent more time in the treatment room than on the field of play. It has made team selection an easy exercise, something which no coach wants.
Defenders Dominic Isaacs and Thulani Hlatshwayo should be back, while Nazeer Allie may have had enough time to recover for tonight’s match.
De Sa, though, remains at the mercy of the club’s medical department before he is able to name a starting team.
“The game plan for Celtic is probably to play on the counter,” said De Sa.
“We’ll sit deep, let them come at us, and catch them on the break. It’s important that we get in behind them, that’s the way to try and break them down.”
This week’s PSL fixtures:
Tuesday (all at 7.30pm)
University of Pretoria v Kaizer Chiefs; Mamelodi Sundowns v SuperSport United; Free State Stars v Orlando Pirates; AmaZulu v Golden Arrows; Bloemfontein Celtic v Ajax Cape Town; Wits v Maritzburg United; Polokwane City v Moroka Swallows
Saturday (all at 3pm)
Kaizer Chiefs v AmaZulu; Moroka Swallows v Free State Stars; SuperSport United v Polokwane City; Golden Arrows v Orlando Pirates; Platinum Stars v Ajax CT; Bloemfontein Celtic v Wits; Black Aces v University of Pretoria; Maritzburg United v Mamelodi Sundowns