Ncikazi says Pirates’ remaining league matches are like Cup finals
The Soweto team have played well in their Caf Confederation Cup group but have lacked form domestically
Mandla Ncikazi says Orlando Pirates will push for a second-place finish in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) that will see the former African champions qualify for the next Caf Champions League campaign.
To do so, Ncikazi said the Buccaneers’ remaining seven matches should be billed as Cup finals‚ and must be won‚ starting with a short trip to Ellis Park for a confrontation with Sekhukhune United on Wednesday.
“The remaining seven matches should be Cup finals for us‚” Ncikazi said after Pirates qualified for the Caf Confederation Cup quarterfinals as Group B winners despite a goalless draw against Libyan outfit Al Ittihad at Orlando Stadium on Sunday.
“While we have Caf commitments we still have to concentrate on the Premiership and try to get second spot if possible‚” the Bucs coach said.
Pirates enter a tricky period where they will have to find the right balance in juggling their remaining PSL matches and the two-legged Confed quarterfinal.
The draw for the quarterfinal will be conducted in Cairo on Wednesday. Pirates will enjoy the privilege of hosting the second leg tie as reward for winning their group.
While they have been superior among their Confed group opponents‚ Pirates have lacked form domestically and will have to be at their best to beat relegation-threatened Baroka‚ Chippa United and TS Galaxy in their three matches after Sekhukhune.
Clashes against Royal AM‚ SuperSport United and another relegation-threatened team in Maritzburg United will also be tough‚ but Ncikazi will hope the presence of The Ghost‚ as Bucs fans are known‚ will help them achieve their objectives.
Crowds of 50% of capacity have been allowed back at sports stadiums due to the easing of Covid-19 regulations.
The few thousand Bucs fans who braved a chilly and wet Orlando for a late kickoff on Sunday against Ittihad made for a raucous atmosphere‚ and Ncikazi is confident the numbers will increase as matches come thick and fast.
“It was nice to see the fans back. The atmosphere was different but the weather didn’t allow many of them to come back.
“I’m sure as time goes we’ll see more and more supporters to give us the energy they gave us today,” he said of Sunday’s game.
Ncikazi said Bucs’ finish as Confederation Cup group stage top scorers with 15 goals indicates that he and co-coach Fadlu Davids are inching closer to finding a winning formula.
Pirates have not lost in regulation time in six games in all competitions since their defeat to Kaizer Chiefs early last month‚ scoring nine goals and conceding three‚ though scoring does remain a struggle for the Soweto giants.
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