Orlando Pirates interim boss Augusto Palacios speaks to Benni McCarthy during their match against Sundowns.

Augusto Palacios maintained on Thursday that he had won control of the Orlando Pirates dressing room, insisting the club had moved on from the chaos seen during the reign of Julio Leal.

“100 percent! 100 percent!” was Palacios’s response when asked if the trouble witnessed just before he took over from Leal – who was accused of allowing ill-discipline and thus “suspended” by management – had been banished to the past.

“I haven’t had problems with any player. All players know their responsibilities. I have received great co-operation from everybody. There are senior and inexperienced players in the team, but all have shown the same respect.”

Pirates host Free State Stars on Saturday in a Nedbank Cup second round fixture (Orlando Stadium, 6pm) where they will look to continue their remarkable run in domestic knockout competitions.

Bucs have reached the last five cup finals in succession – winning four of them – and Palacios would not want to be the first Pirates coach in almost two years to lose a domestic cup fixture.

“We want to defend this competition, but for me this match against Free State Stars is no different from other league games. We will use the same approach and won’t think that just because it’s a cup game, we have to play for extra-time and penalties. No, we won’t do that. We strive to win every game.”

Pirates beat Stars in the quarter-finals en route to clinching this cup last year, but Ea Lla Koto are a far more transformed side now, as evidenced in their first-leg league meeting with Pirates, where they emerged 1-0 victors.

“It will be a very difficult game because Stars are improving. They are fifth on the log but I know them very well. I also know the philosophy of their coach Steve Komphela, but we must control the game,” Palacios said.

He vowed to persist with Ndumiso Mabena as one of the options in his striking force, though the youngster hasn’t found the back of the net with regularity. “I believe in him,” Palacios said of Mabena, who was seated next to him during yesterday’s press conference.

Meanwhile, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Johan Neeskens, whose side travel to Bidvest Wits on Sunday, said he would be happy with any kind of win irrespective of how many goals are scored.

Sundowns set the tournament on fire by scoring a record 24 goals in their opening match against Powerlines, but Neeskens laughed off suggestions that the record could ever be repeated.

“It’s a joke to speak of 24 goals now. We won’t care about how we win, as long as we win, even by one goal, and progress,” the Dutchman said. – The Star