Johannesburg – Moroka Swallows have been targetted by their Premiership rivals and must raise their game, according to coach Zeca Marques, ahead of their league clash with Chippa United in Dobsonville on Friday evening.
The Birds will have just three days to turn things around after a deflating 2-0 loss to Wits in a midweek encounter.
“What has become clear now is that we're the team to be beaten,” Marques said.
His players needed to meet raised expectations, Marques believed, after they lifted the MTN8 cup in September.
“People come out to beat us, so we've got to raise our game.
“We've got to show why we're champions and this is it. Sometimes these situations come as a wake-up call.”
Swallows have fallen off the pace in the title race, lying in seventh position, already eight points behind table-toppers Kaizer Chiefs.
Last season the Birds challenged for the title right up to the final fixture, but they will need to find another gear after losing four of their nine matches in this campaign.
“We have to pick ourselves up from this and realise that going forward, if we want to be among the top teams, we've got to raise our game as well,” said Marques, who took over from Bafana Bafana
coach Gordon Igesund at the start of the season.
“I think this squad is solid, but unfortunately we've got to now start thinking differently. The players have to start thinking differently as well.
“Everyone who comes to play against us, wants to outsmart us, wants to outperform us, because they want their names in the papers the next day.”
Despite their defeat to Wits, Marques defended his side after they fought back in the second period.
“Headlines will be 'Wits outclass Swallows', but that wasn't the case.
“It was a game of two halves. In the second half we were magnificent.
“I can take solace from the fact that we played extremely well in the second half.
“But you know what, you don't win games by playing well, you win games by scoring.”
On Saturday, University of Pretoria play Mamelodi Sundowns at Tuks Stadium, while Platinum Stars take on Wits in Phokeng.
Golden Arrows face Maritzburg in Umlazi, Orlando Pirates play Free State Stars at Orlando Stadium and SuperSport United host Kaizer Chiefs in Polokwane.
On Sunday, Ajax Cape Town are at home to Black Leopards at Cape Town Stadium and Bloemfontein Celtic meet AmaZulu at Free State Stadium. – Sapa