Kjell Jonevret says Orlando Pirates have too much football left to start thinking negatively. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates have to yet again treat their final three Absa Premiership matches like a cup final as they scramble to maintain their precious top eight record, starting with Wednesday night's clash away to Bloemfontein Celtic.

The Buccaneers are battered and bruised, having suffered two back-to-back defeats against log leaders Bidvest Wits last Thursday and Mamelodi Sundowns three days later, results which have left them two places outside the top eight bracket.

Pirates are one of two teams with a 100 percent record of finishing in the top half of the table in the Premier League era, the other being SuperSport United. The Buccaneers also left it until late this time last year and held on to their milestone, finishing in seventh place following a draw against SuperSport, coincidentally.

On Sunday, not long after Pirates had suffered a 2-0 loss to Sundowns, coach Kjell Jonevret claimed he didn’t have a lot to say in his post-match comments, but the stark reality is that there will be plenty to talk about if the Buccaneers don’t pick up maximum points against Celtic, Ajax next Wednesday and Golden Arrows on May 27.

Jonevret will begin the new season on the back-foot if his men don’t up their game.

“We have lost two games in a row now, which is not good,” he said. “Now we have to work on getting the players’ morale up again because everyone is a little down. 

"They obviously want to have points and play better and that hasn’t been the case (in the last two matches). But there isn’t really time to be sad because we have a lot of football still to play considering there is also a cup semi-final (Nedbank Cup away to Arrows).”

Although Celtic are four points clear of bottom of the log side Highlands Park, they will feel they are caught up in the fight to avoid relegation. The Pirates game is yet another must-win for the side still working tirelessly behind the scenes to free coach Luc Eymael after he was recently ordered back to his previous employers, Polokwane City.

They will fancy their chances against Pirates, who have hardly looked convincing as Jonevret continues to try and settle into the demands of South African football, especially at a club the size of the Buccaneers.

Celtic will be involved in a regional derby against Free State Stars next and hope to have guaranteed safety by the time they visit Maritzburg United in their final league game.

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