Helman Mkhalele: Orlando Pirates must not focus on Sundowns

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Helman Mkhalele - Orlando Pirates
The 48-year-old legend believes that Pirates must not focus too much on the log table, but on their upcoming fixtures

Although Mamelodi Sundowns complained to the Premier Soccer League regarding their hectic fixture schedule, Orlando Pirates legend Helman Mkhalele says that will not count against the Brazilians when it comes to the PSL title race.

The man known as the 'Midnight Express' believes it is normal for a top club such as the Brazilians to have a tight fixture schedule and they should be experienced enough to handle their fixtures.

Sundowns are busy in the Caf Champions League, Nedbank Cup and in the league, but are competing for domestic title honours against the Sea Robbers who are rather well rested.

Pirates last played against Golden Arrows on March 17, whilst the 2016 African champions were in action on Sunday against Cape Town City in the Ke Yona quarter-finals.

Both PSL title challengers are back in league action this week. Pitso Mosimane’s men are up against Chippa United at home on Wednesday, whilst Milutin Sredojevic’s troops host Bloemfontein Celtic on the same night.

However, despite the Soweto giants being rested, Mkhalele is adamant that this doesn’t count in modern football as an excuse because this might also hurt his former club.

“I think a break for Pirates is not going to be a huge factor when looking at the title race because breaks could help or distract a team in modern football,” Mkhalele told Goal.

“Look, for me it is all about how the technical team manages the load and how they keep the players fresh and fit during a break such as this one for Pirates,” reckoned Mkhalele.

“Continuity is very important for them because if you say they are fresh, in a game situation, this might hurt them because they might struggle in a match and that break or rest doesn’t help at all,” he noted.

“For Sundowns, the same can be said when it comes to fixture and player management because they are experienced in such hectic schedules and the technical team must do their work in terms of management by ensuring the schedule and be able to rest and refresh the players,” observed the 48-year-old.

Just before the recent Fifa international break, Sredojevic led his side to a 2-1 victory over Abafana Bes’thende as they narrowed the gap on Sundowns to one point.

Although Sundowns have a match in hand, Mkhalele has warned the Sea Robbers to keep their eyes on the prize and guard against complacency.

“It is a massive achievement on their part to close down the gap to a point, that has brought a sigh of relief in their camp,” added the former Jomo Cosmos player.

“However, the technical team must also work hard in ensuring the players remain focused, not on the title race or the gap, but on the dynamics of their upcoming game,” continued the Newcastle-born former international.

“Yes, the gap will bring some relief and hope that they can challenge the log leaders, but there could be anxiety and pressure on the part of Pirates,” explained the ex-Ankaragucu winger.

“The coach and the technical must ensure the players forget about the race because they still have to plan for Bloemfontein Celtic – so looking too much on the race will put pressure as they will want to win at all costs, that may cause troubles because that would mean they are not managing the pressure and setting realistic goals,” he warned.

“I think Pirates will win at Orlando Stadium against Celtic because they are at home, but they are coming from a loss to Maritzburg in the cup which will push Celtic to do better on Wednesday,” concluded Mkhalele.



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