CAPE TOWN – After a good win over SuperSport United at the weekend, Cape Town City are ready for the next challenge: and it’s a tricky one, indeed.
Tomorrow night, City are up against their nemesis when they take on Baroka FC in a PSL fixture in Polokwane (7.30pm) - and head coach Benni McCarthy is keenly aware of the tough challenge his team faces: Baroka will certainly be looking to continue their dominance over the Capetonians.
City have developed a formidable reputation since their formation two years ago. They’ve finished third and fifth in their two seasons as a PSL club and, at the weekend, they got the new campaign off to a winning start in comfortably dispatching of SuperSport.
But, despite all of that, if there’s a team in the PSL that has not been awed by the meteoric rise of City, then it’s Baroka. The Polokwane-based side has always proven to be difficult opponents for the Capetonians; home or away, they’ve ignored all the hype that surrounds City, got on with the business, and pulled off some positive results against the Citizens.
In 2016, when Eric Tinkler was in charge of City, Baroka came to the Cape and emerged victorious. Last season, with McCarthy in charge, Baroka defeated the Cape side 2-0 in Polokwane, drew 1-1 in the Mother City, and then, just for good measure, the Polokwane club dumped City out of the Telkom Knockout as well.
With this as background, it’s no surprise that City are really pumped for tomorrow’s fixture. McCarthy, though, believes the improvements he has made to his squad will be the deciding factor, and the chief reason why Baroka will not find things as easy as they have in the past.
“Baroka will face a different City team (on Wednesday),” said McCarthy. “They’ve always been our bogey team, and last season we couldn’t get one over them; they also knocked us out of the Telkom. Last season, though, we conceded silly goals against them, some of them from 45m out. In those games, I always felt afterwards that we should have won, but this time I’m a lot more positive coming up against Baroka. We are a lot more solid now, especially in goal, with new goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh.”
And it’s not just Leeuwenburgh’s presence that gives McCarthy confidence. With City having added Riyaad Norodien, Siphelele Mthembu and Gift Links to the attack, there is a lot more creativity in the squad. Norodien did well on debut in the win over SuperSport at the weekend - and McCarthy also has another ace up his sleeve in that he hasn’t, as yet, unleashed Ayanda Patosi.
The City coach explained: “In terms of selection for the SuperSport game at the weekend, I left out Ayanda Patosi because I felt that we needed players who could play a pressing game. So, because of the circumstances of the match, and the opposition we were up against, I felt it best not to play Ayanda. But, against a team like Baroka, which is an away game, where we may need to keep the ball more, it means he will come into contention for selection.”
City’s win over SuperSport on the opening day of the new season was founded on the intelligence and industry of the two central midfielders, Austrian Roland Putsche and veteran Teko Modise.
Putsche covered every blade of grass and scored a fantastic goal too, whipping in an unstoppable volley, while 35-year-old Modise was his metronomic self in linking play and holding everything together with his trademark smooth passing and superb positioning.
McCarthy, though, is mindful of the fact that Father Time is catching up with Modise, and he has to manage the player carefully.
“I manage each player differently,” said the City coach. “With Teko, how I manage him, is that he tells me how he feels. I know what he can give me and I know what he offers the team. We were teammates before (at Orlando Pirates) so I’d like to believe that he has earned my respect.
As players get older, to get the best out of them, as a coach you have to have discussions with the player about which games he wants to play, which trips he wants to make, and which he wants to sit out. Teko will know his body better than me - and he can therefore give an honest assessment of how he feels.”
This week's fixtures are:
Today: Kaizer Chiefs v Bidvest Wits; Polokwane City v Mamelodi Sundowns
Tomorrow: Free State Stars v Maritzburg United; Golden Arrows v Bloemfontein Celtic; Baroka FC v Cape Town City (Peter Mokaba Stadium, 7.30pm); Chippa United v Orlando Pirates; SuperSport United v AmaZulu
Saturday: Mamelodi Sundowns v Golden Arrows; Kaizer Chiefs v Free State Stars; Orlando Pirates v SuperSport United
Sunday: Maritzburg United v Cape Town City (Harry Gwala Stadium, 3pm)@Reinerss11