Pirates take aim at struggling Baroka

Orlando Pirates will take aim at a struggling Baroka FC when the teams meet for a 2021/22 DStv Premiership clash at the Orlando Stadium on Thursday.

Kick-off is at 7:30pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).

Pirates racked up their biggest win of the league season when they defeated Stellenbosch FC 3-0 (handing the Cape side their first loss of 2021/22) at the Danie Craven Stadium on 24 November, with goals from Deon Hotto (two) and Collins Makgaka.

The Buccaneers have claimed eight points from five home matches this season, with their last result as hosts a 2-1 win over Sekhukhune United in early November.

Orlando Pirates co-caretaker coach Mandla Ncikazi believes the Soweto giants are on the level of league leaders and defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns, and believes they will only get stronger.

“We are on the level of Sundowns, but we even have more support than Sundowns,” Ncikazi was quoted as saying over the past weekend. “Pirates is a big team in South Africa; you are expected to win every match, every weekend.

“Pirates are not achieving at their best, but we understand the process. It is the new leadership, and many players have been injured.

“We are on the right track towards achieving big things. There is an improvement. It is important that we have momentum now. We are on the right track towards achieving big things,” he added.

Baroka suffered a seventh defeat of the season and saw their winless run stretched to seven matches when they were beaten 3-2 at Golden Arrows on 28 November – though the Limpopo side did at least fight back thanks to goals from Sekela Sithole and Denwin Farmer.

Bakgaga Ba Mphahlele have claimed just one point from six away matches this season. The only game on the road in which they avoided defeat was a 1-1 draw at Royal AM in November.

“Our plan has not changed much, we lost the three points against Arrows but there are 12 more to play for in the next four matches of this first cycle,” said Baroka head coach Kgoloko Thobejane, who is confident his team can cause an upset on Thursday.

“Our position on the log standings is not good at the moment and we need those points on offer. Our next match is against Pirates and if you want to be the best, you must beat the best.

“That’s how the game goes. It will be eleven against eleven on the pitch. Some of these teams are just big names but they don’t scare us because we are here to compete against anyone,” he added.

In head-to-head stats, Baroka and Pirates have met in 10 league matches since the 2016/17 season. The Buccaneers boast an unbeaten record, with three wins and seven draws in the sequence.

The Soweto side has recorded one win and four draws from their five home matches in the rivalry.

Pirates took four points off Baroka last season, with the teams drawing 1-1 at Orlando Stadium in November 2020 (with a late equalising goal from Tshegofatso Mabasa cancelling out the opener from Ananias Gebhardt), before a 2-1 away win at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in June 2021, with strikes from Frank Mhango and Terrence Dzvukamanja.

PLAYERS TO WATCH – Orlando Pirates

Deon Hotto: The Namibian winger had a hand in all three of Pirates’ goals against Stellenbosch and will be eager to build on that performance. Hotto has established himself as a vital cog in the Buccaneers team and he will be hoping to help lead the Soweto giants up the league standings.

Ben Motshwari: The hard-running midfielder started his first game of the league season at Stellenbosch this past weekend and his impact in the middle of the park was noticeable as the Soweto giants made a return to winning ways.

PLAYERS TO WATCH – Baroka FC

Denwin Farmer: He has started nine times for Baroka this season and scored two goals. Farmer has always been highly rated and will be eager to build on a promising start to the season with a solid defensive performance.

Evidence Makgopa: The towering forward hasn’t found the back of the net since mid September and will be eager to break his barren run on Thursday evening. Still young at 21 years of age, but Makgopa will be aiming to show more consistency in front of goal.

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