In every round of the African competition so far, SuperSport enjoyed a decent work-out against KwaZulu-Natal opposition the game before. It’s the same for this trip after Durban amateurs KwaDukuza United served as a warm-up when the Pretoria outfit won 2-0 in a Nedbank Cup last 16 match in Durban earlier this week.
First Golden Arrows helped them sharpen their attack before they launched their continental campaign in Madagascar. SuperSport whipped Arrows 5-2 in a league outing before they went to the island nation and picked up a draw against Elgeco Plus. They wrapped up the victory in Pretoria.
At the next hurdle they lost the first leg 3-2 at Sudan’s Al-Ahly Shendi. Before the second leg SuperSport coach Stuart Baxter said that their 2-1 Nedbank Cup last 32 win over Royal Eagles was suitable preparation, because the First Division club’s style of play was similar to Shendi’s. It worked out accordingly and they thumped Shendi 4-0 in the return leg.
For this latest Liberian challenge the win over KwaDukuza came at the perfect time. SuperSport needed a morale boost after they were defeated by lowly Baroka FC for their first league loss in 20 matches.
However, Baxter must still juggle his line-up to ensure players are fresh for this assignment.
“We’re going to have to rotate the team again. You can’t have players coming off one game against Baroka, playing again (in the Nedbank Cup), then travelling 16 hours to Liberia, and then coming back to play Sundowns.
“We’ll try to freshen up. We left a few out (against KwaDukuza) - I didn’t really want to use Dean (Furman) but I had to tighten up especially after we went down to 10 men,” said Baxter.
That followed the late sending off of striker Thabo Mnyamane, who like Furman went on as a substitute in the 2-0 Cup win in Durban. Mnyamane was expected to be on the bench in Liberia, so as to be fresh for the league outing against the Brazilians next week. However, his red card for stamping on midfielder Nzuzo Luthuli means he will be suspended for the back-to-back league clashes against Sundowns and, therefore, Baxter will change his plans and instead start the forward against Barrack Young Controllers.
The other difficulty is the limited information about their opponents, although the coach was hopeful that before Sunday he would have obtained some knowledge about them. More important for Baxter was to regain the rhythm and winning momentum they enjoyed before the Fifa international break.
The uncertainty over his own future with the club could also be a factor in their dip in form, conceded Baxter, who is in talks with Safa to fill the vacant national team post.
“It’s a lot of things. We’re trying to rotate our team so we’re losing a bit of continuity. It’s maybe at the back of their mind what’s happening with the coach, so it’s difficult to say specifically that it was surely that.”