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SuperSport United v Orlando Pirates

One win in 12 previous games: Why do Orlando Pirates struggle against SuperSport United?

22:55 GMT+3 13/08/2019
Clayton Daniels, SuperSport United & Vincent Pule, Orlando Pirates, September 2018
Bucs have an unwanted record against Matsatsantsa. We take a look at what could be the reason for this dismal record?

Orlando Pirates visit SuperSport United in the two teams' first league match of the 2019/20 PSL campaign on Wednesday night. 

The Buccaneers head into the game with an unwanted record, having won just once in their last 12 meetings against Matsatsantsa. 

This includes league and Cup matches dating back to April 2015 when Pirates beat the Tshwane outfit 4-1 in the league. 

But why do Pirates struggle against SuperSport even with their best players on the pitch? 

Tactics

The Buccaneers were tactically poor against Matsatsantsa in almost all the games they have played against them in the last 12 games across all competitions. 

More often than not, SuperSport would overload the midfield with three central midfielders to outnumber Pirates. 

Pirates are known for their traditional 4-4-2 system, with either Ben Motshwari and Musa Nyatama pulling the strings in midfield, or even Xola Mlambo coming in to replace either player. 

However, in the majority of the games, these two teams have proven to be tactically sound, but SuperSport usually has a Plan B whenever things go wrong on matchdays.  

While they have previously opted for a three-man midfield, SuperSport United have shown the ability to adjust this whenever Pirates try to field three central midfielders to match them. 

Perhaps, the issue of unpredictability has also been a factor because SuperSport United would usually use two central midfielders to Pirates' three and still manage to beat them - home and away. 

Whenever they use two central midfielders, Matsatsantsa rely heavily on their pacy wingers to hurt Pirates using the flanks. 

Previously, they'd use Aubrey Modiba and Thuso Phala to keep the Soweto giants on their toes.

Pirates appear to be applying the wrong tactics whenever they face SuperSport United - and this was evident in their 6-1 loss at Mbombela Stadium in November 2016 and again in the 4-1 loss in the Nedbank Cup final on June 24, 2017.

Take nothing away from the Sea Robbers, they play attractive football, but they hardly make forward passes and prefer to knock the ball around and enter the penalty area in style. 

One other thing that has contributed to this record is that SuperSport United often fielded natural strikers to punish Pirates whenever opportunities arose.   

The difference has also been the fact that Pirates relied on nippy strikers such as former marksmen Kermit Erasmus and Justin Shonga against the likes of Morgan Gould, Clayton Daniels, and Bongani Khumalo. 

While this doesn't necessarily mean nippy strikers cannot score against defenders who are big and intimidating physically, Pirates often want to adopt SuperSport United's style of play by using crosses to enter the opposition box. 

This has made it very easy for the Tshwane giants to deal with Pirates, by catching them on the counter-attack using their pacy wingers before the ball gets upfront.     

Failure to score enough goals

Pirates have not been able to score enough goals against SuperSport United, and this has led to the unwanted record on the part of the Soweto giants.   

The Sea Robbers have managed just 12 goals in as many matches against Kaitano Tembo's side, while they have conceded a whopping 21 in the process.  

While this may not be a bad goalscoring record, the fact SuperSport United have scored almost twice as the Buccaneers in the previous 12 matches means the Houghton-based side isn't doing enough.

Pirates have had strikers of less quality compared to SuperSport United, and without really criticising Micho Sredojevic's team, the truth is they haven't had a striker who can score more than 12 goals a season in years now. 

The last striker to get closer to 15 league goals was Tendai Ndoro, and since then, Pirates have been placing their faith in their attacking midfielders for goals, while SuperSport United have had natural strikers with a point to prove whenever they face the big guns of South African football.   

Mental strength     

As things stand, Pirates players surely know their team's dismal record against SuperSport United, and this may be having a psychological effect on them. 

We have seen teams like Kaizer Chiefs struggle against African Wanderers and Baroka in the past, not because they were not good enough. 

A typical example is when a team keeps losing matches week in and week out - whenever the opponent scores then players get dejected, start panicking, fail to apply the right tactics, and end up losing matches. 

Perhaps this has been the case with Pirates players whenever they come up against Matsatsantsa. 

Even with their best players on the pitch - the likes of Oupa Manyisa, Mpho Makola, Wayne Sandilands, Siyabonga Mpontshane, Vincent Pule - Pirates haven't been able to get this right. 

The majority of the players in the current squad may have not experienced the wrath of SuperSport, but surely they have been informed of the team's struggles in the past, and perhaps Sredojevic may come up with tactics that would end this poor spell.