Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15
Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15

Fans are counting down the hours to the restart of football and the action resumes with a Nedbank Cup semifinal double-header that will be played at an empty Orlando Stadium on Saturday.

Bloemfontein Celtic and Baroka FC face off in the first semifinal at 2pm, while Sundowns and Bidvest will get their first taste of life under the shadow of Covid-19 in the second match.

Celtic coach John Maduka expects the match to be played at a slower pace than usual due to almost five months of inactivity.

Maduka said Celtic have not played any friendly matches in the build-up to Saturday’s encounter and this means his players will have to quickly adapt.

“In Europe you will have seen that most of the teams started slowly and we expect the same thing to happen with us‚” said Maduka.

“Games won’t be fast like they were before the break [in March] because it has been a long time without playing football. We have never been through this situation before, but it will improve as more matches [are played].

“The other problem we are facing is that we had to wait for a long time to get permission to resume training and when we finally resumed we did not know when we were going to be allowed to play.

“That situation made things difficult as we prepared the team because we were worried we might overload players. We did not know when the games were going to continue. We had to make sure that we took a gradual approach at training.”

Saturday’s encounter marks Maduka’s first outing since he took charge of the team after co-coach Lehlohonolo Seema’s departure to Chippa United recently. He admitted he does not know how the players will react to the match situation.

“It is going to be a very tricky game because we haven’t played any friendly matches‚ and we will only see the way the players cope [with the challenges] during the encounter itself‚” he said.

“What we have been doing at training was to play match practice‚ but this is between people who know each other very well. It’s not like a friendly against outsiders who present different challenges.

“We will have to adapt on the day and make sure  we are cautious with our plans. It’s tricky but we are all in the same situation and the five subs will help.”

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