Benni McCarthy’s battered Cape Town City turn attention back to the league
Cape Town City will have to overcome both physical and mental fatigue when they host Bloemfontein Celtic in an Absa Premiership clash at the Athlone Stadium on Tuesday night.
City suffered the heartbreak of defeat on penalties in the MTN8 final against SuperSport United on Saturday in what was 120 minutes of hard graft on a sodden‚ heavy pitch.
Their bodies will still be aching from the exertions on the pitch‚ while the manner of the defeat against 10 men in a match they largely dominated will have also taken its mental toll.
The carrot being dangled in front of the players‚ though‚ is that victory against Celtic could take City top of the Premier Soccer League (TMG) log standings with the same number of games played as the front-runners‚ and confirm their status as genuine title contenders under rookie coach Benni McCarthy.
Winger Aubrey Ngoma will again sit out the fixture with injury‚ as does the suspended Mpho Matsi in the central midfield role.
Ngoma believes that the players’ desire to perform for McCarthy could see them overcome whatever physical and mental challenges they may have against Celtic.
“Benni has been wonderful‚ he has been good for the players and the club‚” Ngoma said.
“We can see he is a winning coach. In his first season as a coach to reach a cup final is a massive achievement for him. We all would have loved to win it for him‚ but it was not to be.”
City beat Celtic in both home games they played against the Free State side last season‚ in the league and Telkom Knockout.
Celtic did not manage a single goal in all three league and cup games against City last campaign.
An own goal from Kabelo Mahlasela and a strike from Sibusiso Masina secured a 2-0 extra-time win in the cup‚ while Lehlohonolo Majoro scored the only goal in what was a fortunate 1-0 home success in the league. The away league match in Bloemfontein finished in a 0-0 draw.
After their relegation troubles last season‚ Celtic have started the new campaign well and sit in seventh position with nine points from their first six games.
Coach Veselin Jelusic has brought defensive stability‚ but their five goals scored means they are still battling to convert chances‚ something he hopes he has rectified during the Fifa international break.
It is the first of two matches in Cape Town for the side this week as they also face Ajax Cape Town on Saturday.
“The break gave us the opportunity to strategically plan for our opponents by identifying and addressing our own shortcomings‚” Jelusic said.
“We also worked around tactics to amass the target points in Cape Town. Our system of play allows players to be flexible and adequately guided towards offensive play mixed with high-intensity type of approach.
“We are cautiously defending and trying hard to convert a host of chances created.
“City are playing good football and their style of play is very good‚ and losing focus against them will be suicidal. However‚ we have made our own assessment and aptly prepared for this encounter.”
Celtic were last in action on October 1 when they claimed a 1-0 home success against league champions Bidvest Wits.