Josef Zinnbauer hoping to avoid Gavin Hunt’s fate as Orlando Pirates fight for Caf spot
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CAPE TOWN - Strife levels will be at boiling point in the ranks of Orlando Pirates ahead of their penultimate Premiership match against Baroka FC at Peter Mokaba Stadium tonight.
Pirates supporters, although outnumbered by Kaizer Chiefs fans, are traditionally far more boisterous. They would have looked on with envy when Gavin Hunt was axed. After all, they called for coach Josef Zinnbauer to be given the boot long before their counterparts were calling for Hunt's head.
Come match day, as is usually the case, Pirates fans will take to social media in their numbers and remind all and sundry that their beloved team should be strong contenders for next season's Caf Champions League. Others will say that Pirates should still be campaigning in Africa, rather than count among the also-rans.
And others will ratchet up the call to fire German-born Zinnbauer, who has become the primary target of embattled Buccaneers fans.
Just under a week ago, the simmering tension eased up a bit because Pirates beat AmaZulu, who are well placed to clinch the remaining PSL slot in next season's Champions League.
On Sunday, mid-table side TS Galaxy added to Pirates' woes by scoring an upset 1-0 win, and with it, the Soweto's team's Champions League hopes have virtually disappeared.
Given what has gone before, coupled with the axing of Hunt, this evening's match against Baroka will be a make-or-break affair for Zinnbauer. In the event of defeat, Pirates fans will find it hard to swallow if Zinnbauer is not sent back to Germany immediately, even with one match remaining.
By this time, Pirates fans would have forgotten that Zinnbauer ended a six-year trophy drought by winning the MTN8 in December.
Pirates' fate this evening overshadows all else, and the race to clinch the three remaining berths for Caf competitions next season will be reduced to a sideshow.
On Saturday, Pirates face strugglers Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila and three points from that clash could be enough to secure a slot in the Caf Confederation Cup next season.
Second-placed AmaZulu are well placed to join champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the Champions League. They need three points from their remaining two games to ensure their qualification.
Tonight, AmaZulu run out against Swallows, and the form of the two teams suggests the outcome could be a draw. AmaZulu have just suffered back-to-back defeats and will battle to undo Swallows' compact defence.
AmaZulu would not want to leave it for their last match on Saturday when they are away to the unpredictable Maritzburg United in a KwaZulu-Natal derby.
The other side with a controlling share in the upper regions of the league standings is a vastly improved Golden Arrows, who have been outstanding achievers this season.
They are third in the log with 46 points but have a better goal difference than fourth-placed Pirates, who are also on 46 points.
Arrows are away to Chiefs tonight, and it would be difficult to predict an outcome.