‘There’s no reason we can’t beat Sundowns,’ says Stellies coach Barker

13 May 2024 - 09:12
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Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker.
Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker.
Image: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images

Stellenbosch FC can be the first team to beat Mamelodi Sundowns this season and go on to finish second behind the champions to qualify for next year's Caf Champions League.

This was the view of Stellies coach Steve Barker moments after his side gave the advantage to Orlando Pirates in the chase for second spot, losing 2-0 to relegation-fighting Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Saturday.

The Buccaneers were expected to ascend to second spot and move to 52 points and two clear of Stellies, with victory over another relegation-threatened side Richards Bay FC late on Saturday at Orlando Stadium, but Pirates were shocked 1-0 by Bay, giving the ascendancy back to Stellies.

Barker's side now will look to beat Sundowns at Danie Craven Stadium on Saturday (3pm) before wrapping up an incredible season for the Cape winelands team with an away fixture against Bay.

The only way Pirates can beat Stellies to second spot is if the Buccaneers win their last two matches against TS Galaxy away and SuperSport United at home and hope the Cape side slip up.

Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker's post-match press conference after their 2-0 DStv Premiership loss to Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium.

Stellenbosch's 20-match unbeaten run in the league was ended by Swallows as they showed signs of nerves last week, dropping five points in two matches as they also drew 0-0 at home to AmaZulu. Barker said they have no option but to beat champions Sundowns who have been invincible in the league this season, going 26 matches without defeat.

“It [the [loss to Swallows] is a blow but we've got to keep at it and there's no reason we can't beat Sundowns at home,” Barker said.

“A tough task [to beat Sundowns], they're a good team. But I thought we did enough in the semifinal [Stellies lost 2-0 but mostly matched Sundowns blow for blow in this month's Nedbank Cup semi at Dane Craven] to get a sense for that match.

“The key is to get back the energy and the spark and push for two more matches.

“Pirates still have got to do the job and they're also playing against a team desperate for points [Bay], so let's see how it pans out.”

No matter what happens in the remaining matches, Stellies will play in one of the two Caf Interclub competitions for the first time in their short history next season and Barker says they're making preparations for bolstering their squad.

“We're mindful of it and we will address it and we will ensure we're able to compete competitively on all fronts.”

He gave credit to his players as Stellies will have played 41 matches by the end of the season, as they were the only team to qualify for all the semifinals and one final of the three domestic cup competitions.

Stellies were the inaugural winners of the Carling Knockout Cup, beating TS Galaxy in the final and Barker added no matter where they finish in the league it won't take away that they have had an incredible season.

“If you would have told me at the start of the season we would be in every semifinal the league offered and won a trophy and finished third in the league, I would have probably not believed you. Regardless of whether we finish second or third it was a fantastic season for us.

“We also played in every match this season except the final of the MTN8 and Nedbank Cup. By the time the league ends we would have played 41 matches, which is uncommon for us as a team, but it's a good precursor to what lies ahead.

“One learns from these situations and we'll do our homework and speak to clubs that have been there [in continental football] and prepare ourselves appropriately to mitigate for challenges that will be in our way.”

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