'We are an improved Orlando Pirates‚' says captain Happy Jele

09 August 2019 - 13:08 By Marc Strydom
Orlando Pirates captain Happy Jele has played in the Soweto derby on more than 20 occasions since making his debut for the Bucaneers as a 19-year-old in 2006.
Orlando Pirates captain Happy Jele has played in the Soweto derby on more than 20 occasions since making his debut for the Bucaneers as a 19-year-old in 2006.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates will aim to maximise the advantage of playing the away leg first in their Caf Champions League preliminary round tie against Zambia’s Green Eagles on Saturday‚ Bucs’ captain Happy Jele has said.

Pirates‚ the second-placed Absa Premiership finishers in 2018-19‚ meet last season’s Zambian runners-up at Lusaka’s 5‚000-seater Nkoloma Stadium (kickoff 3pm).

The return leg at Orlando Stadium is on the weekend of August 23 to 25.

Playing away first – where a team can aim for a draw‚ or to keep the score as low as possible‚ or even a win – is considered an advantage as then that side can return and seek to clinch the tie at home.

“It is always ideal in Caf to play the away fixture first.

"We know that we have to go out there and fight to secure a win‚ and then come the second leg we will simply use our home team advantage to finish the job‚” centreback Jele said.

Pirates reached the group stages on their return to the Champions League in 2018-19 after a five-year absence from being losing finalists against Egyptian giants Al Ahly in 2013.

They finished third in Group B behind Esperance de Tunis – the eventual winners‚ by walkover in a contested final against Wydad Casablanca – and Guinea’s Horoya.

This campaign the Buccaneers will aim to progress to the knockout phase.

“We know this will be a tough match for us.

"We are going to face the Eagles on their home turf and we know they will fight for a win – that’s to be expected.

"But we are not exactly going there to gift them with points either‚” Jele said.

“We have a good quality side and with the way we have started this season [with a 3-1 home league win against Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday] it just felt like all of the hard work we put in at the preseason camps was going to pay off.

“We are an improved Orlando Pirates. We have always had quality and confidence‚ but I believe we have also found the missing ingredient – belief.

“We believe we can compete with the best of them in any competition and that is the mentality and attitude that we are taking into this match in particular‚ and our entire Champion’s League campaign.”

Mamelodi Sundowns‚ the 2016 champions‚ also start away‚ against AS Otoho in Congo on Sunday.

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