Soweto giants search for consistency in midweek action

Milutin Sredojevic STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic has welcomed a quick turnaround for his side as they prepare to welcome table-toppers Bidvest Wits to the Orlando Stadium in the Absa Premiership on Wednesday.

Sredojevic was left bitterly disappointed by The Buccaneers' quarterfinal exit in the MTN8 at the hands of SuperSport United, but has welcomed the opportunity to return to the pitch and find the "medicine" to help them get over their penalty shootout loss.

It is one of two high-profile midweek matches that also see Kaizer Chiefs make a tricky trip to Baroka FC on Tuesday.

"We have to pick up the pieces," Sredojevic told reporters. "We need to find the mental strength to bounce back in the league game against Wits.

"You can have slips on the road in a season, but the power of football is when football hits you, how strong you are to stand up and hit back with good performances."

Pirates started their league season with an iffy 1-1 home draw against Highlands Park on the back of a howler from goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, who has since been dropped, which they followed up with a fine 1-0 away win at Chippa United.

Technically they remain unbeaten after their MTN8 clash with SuperSport ended in a 2-2 draw, though a missed penalty from Augustine Mulenga and a shocking miss by Vincent Pule suggested they should have got more.

Sredojevic knows the challenge posed by Wits, the 2016 league champions, whose much-changed side have won their opening two games against Free State Stars (3-0) and Kaizer Chiefs (3-1).

Despite a large overhaul of their personnel, the Serbian coach does not expect Wits to play a different style.

"Wits had significant changes in their squad and are flying high after two matches. We need to defend the long passes looking for the second ball," he said.

"It will be an unpredictable game, but it means a lot they have won their first two games. They are coming for what will be a good match where we want a [good] performance and a result."

Pirates thumped an out-of-sorts Wits 4-0 in their last league meeting in the previous season, but remarkably before that Gavin Hunt's side had won seven games in a row against the Soweto side.

No other side has had anywhere close to such a commanding record against Pirates, despite their struggles in recent times.

It has already been a rollercoaster ride for Chiefs this season; a tense 1-1 draw with Mamelodi Sundowns followed by a demorilising 3-1 loss to Wits and then the joy of a 3-0 home success against Free State Stars at the weekend in the MTN8.

New coach Giovanni Solinas would likely just settle for a routine away success at Baroka, who are unpredictable themselves.

Chiefs were much better in the Stars win, their first goal a fantastic team effort with slick passing and an exquisite finish to boot from Dumisani Zuma. Solinas feels he needs more time on the training pitch before the side hit their peak, but with games coming thick and fast, there is little opportunity for that.

"We need training sessions, but we don't have those at present because we play a match every three to four days, which leaves little to no time to work on our game," Solinas told his club's website.

"Training sessions are an instrument to improve. However, when we train, the guys show commitment and that makes me very confident for our future."

He was also pleased with the contribution of new marquee signing Khama Billiat, who netted his maiden Chiefs goal late on against Stars.

"I don't want to disrespect other players in the PSL but, for me, Billiat is the best player in South Africa. He can easily play in Europe and it's a privilege to have a player like Billiat in my squad," the Italian said.

Remarkably, history actually favours Baroka in this fixture as they lead the head-to-head 3-2, with two draws. Their most famous win was in 2011 when, as a third-tier side, they knocked Chiefs out of the Nedbank Cup at the quarterfinal stage.

Chiefs did win this fixture 2-1 last season though, as goals from Ryan Moon and Leonardo Castro saw them secure three points. They later got revenge over Baroka in the Nedbank Cup with a 1-0 success in March.

These two matches are the only ones being played in the league in midweek as the Soweto giants clear their calendar for African club competition later on.