JOHANNESBURG – Having laboured for full points in the first of the three assignments that will pull them closer to Absa Premiership honours, Orlando Pirates coach Micho Sredojevic is wary of the threat posed by Black Leopards.
Sredojevic had deemed his team’s three fixtures this week as “the three doors that they’ll have to open in order to open the gates of heaven”. It was a bright start as they bagged all three points in their top-of-the-table clash against Bidvest Wits on Saturday away from home. Those spoils took the Buccaneers to the summit on goal difference, while they share the same points (44) with Mamelodi Sundowns.
At the second door Sredojevic reckons relegation threatened Leopards, who they meet at Orlando Stadium this evening, will give them a run for their money.
“I have the highest degree of respect for coach Dylan Kerr and to Black Leopards at large,” Sredojevic said. “They have very good individuals. They play as a team, and have character. With the performances that they have shown this season, they are not an easy nut to crack.”
While Pirates returned with three points from Wits at the weekend, Lidoda Duvha were put to the sword at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium by neighbours Polokwane City.
Leopards will look for three points that will give them a breather from the relegation quagmire. Kerr’s troops are 12th on the standings, a point clear of the relegation/promotion play-offs spot occupied by Free State Stars.
They travel to a territory that has failed to be a fortress for the hosts this season - it has earned Pirates three draws in the last four league matches. Add to the fact that it was also the home draws that played a huge role in Pirates' exit from the Caf Champions League group stage.
To overturn that hoodoo run at Orlando, Sredojevic has called on their home supporters to be the 12th man that will rally behind the team in the quest to use the home advantage in challenging for the league.
“I’d like to kindly invite our supporters to be with us and give the injection of motivation in order to give out the best performance and get the result,” the 49-year-old coach said.
“We know that this is the factor (the draws) that had put us out of Champions League because if we had won home games, it would be different. This is something that we need to drastically improve, and our first chance is in the match against Black Leopards.”
Pirates’ title aspirations will also be boosted by the return of trio Thembinkosi Lorch, Vincent Pule and Xola Mlambo to competitive football.
Lorch, who’s already tipped as one of the candidates for the Footballer of the Season award, missed the team’s last encounter due to a suspension. Pule and Mlambo had been nursing knocks from matches before the international break.@Mihlalibaleka