JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic believes that "two slaps" will keep the Buccaneers in line in their high-profile clash with Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.
This match will see Sundowns, who are on the wane after reaching the highest peak in African football by winning the CAF Champions League, come up against a Pirates’ team that’s on the rise after sinking to a depressing low in the last campaign as they recorded their worst finish in the PSL-era.
The Brazilians had a hand in putting Pirates in that miserable position, thumping the Buccaneers 6-0 in their last meeting, amid ugly scenes which saw fans invading the pitch and vandalising Loftus Versfeld in disgust after they couldn’t get to their own players fast enough with their violent intentions.
“In football, impossible is nothing and anything is possible,” Sredojevic said. “I know that from the years I have spent as a player, coach and passionate lover of the game. In life, it is important to have something guiding you that doesn’t allow you to stray.
"That 6-0 will not be a factor in this match. But in the same moment we need to have two slaps. One slap from this side to remind us that ‘look, in football it is possible to concede six’. The second slap from the other side will direct us to forget that scoreline, play with confidence knowing that we are good and that we can be much better - and it doesn’t get bigger than facing the African champions. I just regret that I am now a coach and not a player (because of how much I love being a part of big games).”
Sredojevic continued, “If I was a player and you told me to eat the grass at Orlando Stadium I would eat grass to prove myself because we have a lot to prove individually and as a team. That’s what is driving us, not fear of 6-0. 6-0 is just a reminder that, ‘hello, don’t forget about this because you can get it’. The confidence that we have is driving us in the right direction.”
While Pirates have been improving their confidence with their rise up the league standings and qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Telkom Knockout, Sundowns are at their all-time low. The Brazilians have lost three successive matches for the first time under coach Pitso Mosimane. The third defeat saw them eliminated in the first round of the Telkom Knockout by Chippa United.
Sredojevic, who calls Mosimane the “Alex Ferguson of local football” heads into this match cautiously.
“We need to respect that the matches Sundowns lost aren’t a reflection of the quality they have as a team and as individuals,” Sredojevic said. “In football, some days are yours and others aren’t. It wasn’t their day in those three games. They are like wounded lions who will come looking to bounce back.
"That’s their problem. We will only think about ourselves and our problems. We want to up our game and measure how far we have gone in developing ourselves. They are wounded but we need to find the salt to put on that wound.”