CAPE TOWN – City will look to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup when they take on Highlands Park at Cape Town Stadium tonight (8pm kickoff).
The last time the clubs faced off was in the PSL when City, who were gunning for a fourth successive victory, lost 2-0 to last year’s NFD champions at the Makhulong Stadium.
Whether the Lions of the North can tame City who produce their best form at home remains to be seen, but they come to the Mother City off a shock 1-0 home win over league leaders Wits last weekend.
Their coach Owen da Gama fears no team and he will be chomping at the bit to do complete a league and Cup double over opposite number Benni McCarthy.
But McCarthy isn’t one to shout his mouth off when it comes to predicting outcomes, he prefers to let his players do the talking for him on the field.
He knows he has a quality team who can turn on the magic at any moment, especially at Cape Town Stadium where they recently put five goals past Free State Stars.
The players know every blade of grass and its large size allows them to exploit it to its fullest starting with patient build-ups before assaults on goal.
City are likely to start with Kermit Erasmus upfront and the pressure will be on the former SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates marksman to break his goal drought.
City assistant coach Vasile Manousakis is backing Erasmus, pictured, to come good.
“Kermit has played for the national team and shown how good he is. I expect he is feeling the pressure of not scoring yet and missing a penalty in the 1-0 league defeat to AmaZulu never helped matters,” said Manousakis.
“I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before he strikes, and when he does, it could open the floodgates. We mustn’t forget that he has distributed the ball well for others to convert into goals.”
City’s leading goal scorer Siphelele Mthembu has recovered from injury and is set to come off the bench tonight. The man they call Shaka Zulu was given a rough ride by Kaizer Chiefs’ defenders, forcing him to leave the field early in a league clash that the Capetonians ended up winning.
McCarthy is happy to have Mthembu back in training.
“Shaka bulks up our squad that has become petite. We have gotten smaller and smaller, and shorter and shorter when you compare us to the (Highlands) Park unit,” McCarthy said.
“If Kermit can’t last the full 90 minutes then bank on Shaka to pick up where he left off and add to his tally of goals. He could become the top scorer in South Africa this season. Every goal counts and he needs to up his tally.”
Who will be City two midfielders is the conundrum facing McCarthy.
He takes no pleasure in leaving players out of the team, but he can only pick 11 so it comes down to a tactical call that he has to make.
There are two potential midfield combinations and one has to wait and see if Roland Putsche and Thabo Nodada get the nod ahead of incumbents Teko Modise and Thato Mokeke.
Mike de Bruyn