The real competition of the 2013 Caf Champions League will begin on Saturday night, and it is all up to Orlando Pirates to take advantage of the home ground against AC Leopards.
Pirates will welcome the Congolese outfit at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night, in what promises to be an exciting encounter.
Leopards might be a closed book to the Buccaneers and maybe a bit inexperienced in the Champions League, but they are certainly not pushovers.
They have actually done well in continental football recently having won the 2012 edition of the Caf Confederations Cup, and they have achieved a lot this season by reaching the group stages of the Champions League in their first season.
However, Pirates will be motivated by their previous result of this year’s competition. The Sea Robbers beat TP Mazembe 3-2 on aggregate, and although they lost away from home in the return leg, Bucs should be proud of their performance.
The departure of Takesure Chinyama and Onyekachi Okonkwo could put Pirates under pressure starting from Saturday night. The duo played a major role in the knockout stages of the competition with Chinyama scoring 4 goals in the process.
However, Pirates have registered their new striker Lennox Bacela and they will be relying on him, together with Collins Mbesuma for goals.
Pirates will be without their influential skipper Lucky Lekgwathi and left-back Patrick Phungwayo, but the return of Rooi Mahamutsa should give Roger de Sa’s team some stability at the back.
With Andile Jali a doubtful starter against Leopards, Oupa Manyisan and Thandani Ntshumayelo are expected to battle the likes of Ntela Kalema and Bienvenue Kombo in the middle of the park.
However, it will be interesting to see how the Pirates defence will cope against the strength of striker Arouna Drame upfront.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
· Orlando Pirates have not lost a Caf Champions League match at home this year.
· AC Leopards have never played in the Caf Champions League prior to the 2013 edition.
· The Congolese side are the current champions of the Caf Confederations Cup.
· Pirates are the third most successful team in the Caf Champions League in Group A; Al Ahly won it a record seven times, Zamalek on five occasions and Pirates once (in 1995).
· Only two teams that finish top of each group will progress to the semi-finals of the Caf Champions League.