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COMMENT: How playing behind closed doors will be to Orlando Pirates' advantage against Esperance

12:13 EAT 12/02/2019
Xola Mlambo, Alfred Ndengane, Musa Nyatama & Linda Mntambo, Orlando Pirates, January 2019
Pirates have played in an empty stadium in the past, and facing Esperance behind closed doors in Tunisia may be of their advantage on Tuesday

Esperance de Tunis will be at home against Orlando Pirates in a top-of-the-table clash in the Caf Champions League on Tuesday.

The Blood and Gold will have to find a way to overcome the Buccaneers without their passionate supporters at the Stade El Menzah in Tunis.

This comes after the Caf ordered the defending champions to play two of their home Champions League matches against FC Platinum and Pirates behind closed doors.

Esperance were punished by the continent’s governing body after their fans attacked the Al Ahly team bus ahead of the return leg in the 2018 Champions League final on November 9.

The Tunisian champions were able to secure a comfortable 2-0 win against Zimbabwean champions FC Platinum at home last month.

FC Platinum are still trying to establish themselves in the continental tournament as this is their maiden group stage campaign, and as such, they stood no chance against Esperance in Tunisia.

Pirates, who won this competition in 1995, will relish the opportunity to face Esperance behind closed having been there in the past.

Tunisian fans usually create an unfriendly and hostile atmosphere with the sole aim of intimidating the visitors and also act as the 12th man for the hosts.

As a result, North African teams have been accused of using intimidation tactics to dominate continental football over the years.

The absence of fans inside the stadium will be a big factor as this will allow Pirates players to play without any form of intimidation from the home crowd.

Experienced players such as Happy Jele, Thabo Matlaba and Mpho Makola will also be key for Bucs as they were part of the team that faced Esperance in Tunisia six years ago.

A resilient Pirates side held the three-time Champions League winners to a 1-1 draw in Rades in the semi-finals to advance to the final after winning on the away goal rule.

It was the same Pirates team that made history by becoming the first South African club to defeat the most decorated club in Champions League history, Al Ahly away in an empty stadium.

The Egyptian football powerhouse were forced to play behind closed doors at the El-Gouna Stadium due to political unrests in Egypt, and Bucs took advantage of the situation by thrashing them 3-0.

There's no doubt that Bucs, who boast an unbeaten record on the road in this year's competition, can stun Esperance by securing another famous win in North Africa, and put one foot in the quarterfinals.