Bucs out to end Trophy drought

Bloemfontein Celtic and Orlando Pirates will do battle in the 2020 MTN8 final at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday evening.

Kick-off is at 6:00pm CAT.

Both teams head into the fixture hoping to end their respective trophy droughts by claiming the MTN8 title and the R8-million cash prize that comes with it.

Celtic booked their place in the final with wins over Mamelodi Sundowns (1-0) and defending champions SuperSport United (2-1 on aggregate). Having lost to the Brazilians in the Nedbank Cup final last season, Celtic have booked their place in back-to-back finals and will be setting their sights on a first piece of silverware since beating Sundowns 1-0 at the very same venue in the 2012 Telkom Knockout Cup.

Siwelele haven’t won South Africa’s top-eight competition since 2005 and despite beating the holders of all four of the country’s domestic trophies en route to this year’s final, head coach John Maduka believes Celtic go into the game on KwaZulu-Natal’s east coast as underdogs.

“We are going as the underdogs, most of the people expect Pirates to beat us, so that gives us that advantage because the pressure is not on us,” Celtic head coach John Maduka said.

“The pressure is on Pirates, because the majority of people think Pirates will beat us, and we have worked hard, we have planned and prepared well, and we’re looking forward [to it].

“We respect Pirates, we know they are a good team but at the same time we are prepared to compete against them and we are looking forward to the final,” he concluded.

Pirates defeated Cape Town City (1-0) and fierce rivals Kaizer Chiefs (5-0 on aggregate) to book their MTN8 final ticket and the Buccaneers will be eyeing their first success in the tournament since winning the trophy in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011.

The Soweto giants will be looking to bring an end to a six-year trophy drought. Pirates haven’t lifted silverware since beating Bidvest Wits 3-1 in the 2014 Nedbank Cup final at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Josef Zinnbauer’s team head into Saturday’s cup final on a 12-game unbeaten run across all competitions, but the Pirates tactician doesn’t consider his team favourites.

“I’m happy we have the final, this was hard work for us, with tough games behind us. Now we are happy to be in the final, and we do our best to try and win this final,” Zinnbauer said.

“We know we have a good opponent in this game, it’s a tough game, the opponent is strong and they won against Sundowns – we know this, we have the information of what they do.

“But we have a plan and I feel a very good spirit in training, the mood is good, and I think we are [headed] in the right direction,” he concluded.

The two teams have already met this season with Pirates claiming a hard fought 1-0 win away to Phunya Sele Sele in a DStv Premiership fixture at the start of November. A late Siphesihle Ndlovu goal secured all three points for the visitors.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Bloemfontein Celtic

Victor Letsoalo : The Celtic forward scored against both Sundowns and SuperSport to lead his club to another cup final. Letsoalo will be hoping to make it four goal contributions in four matches as Siwelele aim to penetrate an improving Pirates defence. Comfortable across the front line, Letsoalo has formed a formidable partnership with Ndumiso Mabena and the duo will be key to Celtic’s chances of ending the club’s trophy drought.

Siphelele Luthuli : The former South African youth international seems to have found his feet in Bloemfontein and has established himself as a key member of the Siwelele squad. The midfielder has started in all of Celtic’s domestic matches this season and has adapted well to various positions on the pitch. Luthuli will be key in a match that will be hotly contested in midfield.

Orlando Pirates

Vincent Pule : The Buccaneers winger has returned to form and heads into this weekend’s MTN8 final fresh from scoring of a brace in a 2-2 draw away to Cape Town City in the league. Pule has established himself as a reliable source for goals, not only through scoring but assisting as well and his teammates will be looking to him to provide the spark in the final third.

Thulani Hlatshwayo : There has no doubt that Hlatshwayo’s arrival at Orlando Stadium has had a huge impact on the club. The Bafana Bafana captain enjoyed huge success during his time at Bidvest Wits and captained the now defunct club to MTN8 glory in 2016. Pirates have yet to concede goal in the MTN8 competition this season and huge credit should be given to Hlatshwayo for making what was an often fragile Pirates defence more resilient.

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