Augustine Mulenga has replaced Justin Shonga in the Orlando Pirates starting line-up that will take on Esperance today. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic has made three changes to his starting line-up for today’s crunch Caf Champions League clash against Esperance in Tunisia.

The major difference comes in midfield, where Linda Mntambo and Paseka Mako replace Musa Nyatama and Xola Mlambo from the XI that started in the 1-1 Soweto Derby draw against Kaizer Chiefs at the weekend.

Upfront, another Zambian in Augustine Mulenga comes in for his countryman Justin Shonga for the match at the Stade El Menzah in Tunis (3pm SA time kickoff).

Pirates will play behind closed doors as Esperance serve the second of a two-match stadium ban, but Nyatama is still wary of the defending champions, following the Buccaneers’ goalless draw with Esperance at Orlando Stadium last week.

Pirates top Group A on goal difference from Esperance, with both teams on five points.

“We are fortunate to be playing them without their supporters. The fans up north are very vocal and they do all they can to give the home team some sort of advantage,” he told the Pirates website on Tuesday.

“I know from personal experience that the role of the supporters is quite crucial so for them not to have their 12th man works in our favour, and I think it will assist us in our plan of snatching three crucial points from the defending champions.

“We all know that the North African teams are very tactical. They play the result and not necessarily the occasion. You could clearly see by the way they celebrated after our first game that they wanted a point from that match.

“We expect a completely different game today. Now that they are playing at home, we can expect them to come hard at us… the first 20 to 30 minutes will be crucial.”

Assistant coach Fadlu Davids added: “Forget about the external factors, forget about the distractions, forget about the long travel – and think about the match.

“Think about what we need to do tactically and how we need to prepare. That is what it’s all about: it’s about mental strength, and the thinking of the players to be fully focused on this game.

“And ultimately, to get the result that we want.”

Orlando Pirates Team

25 Wayne Sandilands 4 Happy Jele (captain) 21 Alfred Ndengane 26 Asavela Mbekile 23 Innocent Maela 8 Linda Mntambo 27 Ben Motshwari 29 Paseka Mako 10 Vincent Pule 3 Thembinkosi Lorch 17 Augustine Mulenga.

Substitutes: Jackson Mabokgwane (GK), Marshall Munetsi, Musa Nyatama, Xola Mlambo, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Justin Shonga, Thamsanqa Gabuza.

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