Stellies, Citizens keen to bounce back
The two teams square off in the Absa Premiership at Cape Town Stadium today (3.30pm kick-off).
The previous meeting between the sides was a hard-fought affair with Wits scoring in the closing stages to claim a 2-1 victory.
“We’ve improved a lot since that loss in August,” said Barker. “It’s our first season in the top division and game by game the lads, many who haven’t played at this level before, have grown in stature and believe they can now beat any team on any given day. Yes, we’ve only won three of 15 matches in the first round but we have been competitive in all bar the 4-0 home defeat to table-topping Kaizer Chiefs.”
Stellies, who sit in 13th place on the log standings, play six games this month, four at home, so a chance for them to play themselves away from the drop zone.
“We’ve said all along that our goal for the season was to cement our status, and we’re headed in the right direction,” said Barker. “We did a lot of travelling in the first round and still managed to end the year off with 15 points, a target we had set ourselves. Now, with more home games than away games, a big chance for us to lay down a marker to teams around us on the table.”
Meanwhile, Cape Town City entertain Baroka FC at Cape Town Stadium tomorrow (3.30pm kick-off).
The Citizens have had a torrid campaign and remain winless under new head coach Jan Olde Riekerink and in second-last place on the log. The Dutch tactician joined the club in November after the axing of Benni McCarthy and has been in the dugout for four games and only picked up two draws.
City chairman John Comitis is hoping for a top-eight position come the end of the month. It remains to be seen whether new signing Mduduzi Mdantsane will make his debut against his former club that he captained.
“Mduduzi has been really good at training and brings something different to what City currently have in the offensive department,” said City assistant coach Vasili Manousakis. “He’s got a great left foot, he’s full of energy, a real box-to-box midfielder that gets onto the end of things in the final third. He also has the ability to make some really good penetrating runs and create chances. And when it comes to helping out defensively, he’s not afraid to get stuck in. But most of all, he’s a fantastic guy, a good character, and that certainly is most important.”
City’s chances of seeing off third-bottom Baroka have been boosted by the return of striker Kermit Erasmus and right-back Thami Mkhize. Also back in contention is midfielder Mpho Makola, who had a six-month ban for pushing a match official downgraded to a four-match ban which he has now served.
Mike de Bruyn