Clinton Larsen says his players must not look beyond Friday night's mtach against Sundowns. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackPagePix
DURBAN - As if facing league and African champions Mamelodi Sundowns isn’t already a big enough challenge, Golden Arrows must grapple with the possibility of their focus straying to the Nedbank Cup semi-finals.

It’s rare for teams to be distracted when lining up against the likes of Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs - Arrows’ opponents next weekend - although that’s the reality of their situation going into Friday night's league clash against the Brazilians in KwaMashu.

Late next month they host Orlando Pirates in the knockout semi-finals in what will be the biggest stage for this group of Arrows players.

Of the current squad only veteran midfielders Musa Bilankulu and Kagisho Dikgacoi were with Arrows during the 2009 campaign when the club lifted their only piece of silverware in the top flight, the MTN8 title.

The mission for the Durban team’s coach, Clinton Larsen will be to ensure his youngsters remain motivated for the three points against the Brazilians.

He reminded his players about how they missed out on a top eight spot on the final day of the season in the last campaign, their first since securing promotion back to the Premiership.

“The top eight is going to be a scrap until the last day of the season. There are about six teams fighting for positions six, seven and eight and every team has big fixtures coming up,” said Larsen.

“We have to look at doing the business ourselves. Last season we missed the top eight by goal difference in the final round. Now we need to make sure we use our last five games to secure that top eight spot.

“Coaching is about getting the players focused on the job at hand. Finishing in the top eight is just as important as getting to the cup final. The heartbreak of the last game of last season is still fresh in our memory and we really want to improve and finish in the top eight.

Arrows are at full strength with the return of defender Lehlohonolo Nonyane from injury, although lack of match fitness may keep him out of the Sundowns match.

Another positive is that Abafana Bes’thende already did the business against Sundowns this season. In the previous round of the cup earlier this month they went to Pretoria and ousted the Brazilians 1-0, courtesy of Nduduzo Sibiya’s goal.

That will give them confidence that they can tackle the African giants, although Larsen realises it’ll be a slightly different scenario this time, because Sundowns have improved since that meeting.

Pitso Mosimane’s outfit are second in the standings in defence of their title after they beat Ajax Cape Town 2-0 this week. And with six-pointers to follow against fellow title contenders Bidvest Wits, mid-table Pirates and relegation-threatened Baroka, Sundowns will view this outing as an opportunity to close the gap and go top of the pack.

Victory will lift Sundowns above log leaders Cape Town City, with a game in hand. The Citizens play Maritzburg United on Monday.

The Mercury

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter