Orlando Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer has hinted at starting forward Frank Mhango for Saturday’s 'special game' against Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld as the Buccaneers seek to close in on the Premier Soccer League leaders.
Last season’s PSL joint top goalscorer Mhango started the first two league games of the current campaign before injury struck, and his comeback has been marked by some cameo appearances.
However, after lasting 90 minutes in Pirates’ last game of 2020 - a Caf Confederation Cup match away at Sagrada Esperanca which was the first time for him to complete a match this season - he appears in line to start against Downs.
“Gaba [Mhango] is close to 100 percent and now needs the time and games. We have seven games in January and we need all the players,” said Zinnbauer as per Sowetan Live. “Gaba is not the only player important to us but all the players are.
"We have so many attacking players. We have [Terrence] Dzvukamanja who can also play as a striker. We have a good squad but the point is we need a good player for each and every position.”
Heightening Mhango’s chances to start are doubts over the availability of Zakhele Lepasa, who was injured in a league match against Chippa United on December 16.
If he returns to full fitness, it would be good news to Zinnbauer, whose Pirates team have not been prolific upfront.
The Buccaneers have managed nine goals in seven league outings, with their top scorers being Vincent Pule and Tshegofatso Mabasa, who have two goals each.
Considering the magnitude of Saturday's game, and Pirates' struggle for goals, Mhango, who ended last season with 16 league strikes, could be the solution as Zinnbauer's men seek to reduce the six-point gap between them and Sundowns.
“We know Sundowns possibly have some of the best players in their squad," Zinnbauer continued. "They have a big‚ big squad and we know it, and we also have a good squad and it’s a special game for us.
“Sundowns are on top and we are behind and‚ ja‚ we have a chance to come closer to Sundowns and come closer to the top of the table. This is important to us, but we must have a good game first and a good performance.
"If we have a good performance we’ll have possibilities of winning the game.”
Pirates and Sundowns last met in the PSL bio-bubble in August and played to a 0-0 draw, but the Soweto giants won the reverse fixture 1-0 in January with Mhango’s goal deciding the contest.