Thursday Aug 08, 2019. 13:00
Orlando Pirates’ quest for a second star begins with a tough Champions League preliminary round tie against Zambian side Green Eagles, with the first leg away at the Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka on Saturday.
It will be a stern early test of their potential title credentials, coming up against a side very much on the rise and one that is well-drilled by current Zambia caretaker coach Aggrey Chiyangi.
The Buccaneers and their coach Micho Sredojevic have made no secret of the fact that they are targeting the Champions League this year after a disappointing group stage exit in 2018-19, and will hope to use the lessons from the disappointment to further their ambitions.
But their route to the group stages is tough – should they advance past Green Eagles, they will likely face 2018 semifinalists Primeiro de Agosto in the first round.
“It will certainly be much tougher than the path we took last year, considering the level of opposition we are about to face. We have, as always, the highest ambitions for CAF,” Sredojevic said.
“Green Eagles are a high-quality side that finished strongly in the Zambian League and they are also coached by Aggrey Chiyangi, who is the caretaker coach of the Zambian national team. We can expect them to be very strong.”
Pirates have bolstered their squad for the Champions League in the off-season and named their list of 28 players they have registered for the preliminary stage.
There are all the usual suspects there, as well as new signings Fortune Makaringe, Siphesihle Ndlovu and Gabadinho Mhango, who could all debut for them in the competition.
It also includes three Zambians in attacking players Justin Shonga, Augustine Mulenga and Austin Muwowo, who will all no doubt be eager to impress.
And they might well need to use their extended squad as the games come thick and fast following last weekend’s opening 3-1 Absa Premiership victory over Bloemfontein Celtic.
“Speaking after the first match about anything [winning trophies] is unfair, we are just focussing now on entering an unbelievable set of matches starting with CAF Champions League away in Zambia, then SuperSport United and Highlands [Park] in the MTN8,” Sredojevic said.
“By the end of the month, we’re expecting to have played seven-plus matches – one every two or three days, so it is time to work.
“But, in the same moment, we have to also remember that matches every two or three days are so demanding, so how we recover and prepare is of crucial importance.”
Green eagles have added six new players to their squad as they also look to strengthen for a campaign in Africa.
Defenders Andrew Kwiliko (Nakambala Leopards), Bonson Muchindu (Nkana FC) and Benson Nzuma (Nchanga Rangers), midfielders Gozon Mutale (Power Dynamos) and Hosea Silwimba (Lumwana Radiants) and striker Mangani Phiri (Napsa Stars) have all arrived at the club.
“The mindset that we want to put in our players is they have to make history again and that means we have to fight hard to make sure that we qualify the next round,” coach Chiyangi said.
“We know that Pirates will be difficult but we will make sure that we will also do our best because in football anything can happen. You cannot just play football on paper; football is played on the pitch.”
Green Eagles played in the CAF Confederation Cup last season but were knocked out in the first round by Algerian side Hussein Dey, though only narrowly 2-1 on aggregate.
They also competed in the recent CECAFA Club Cup, where they finished third.
Pirates have met Zambian opposition twice before in the Champions League competition and triumphed on aggregate on both occasions.
They beat Mufulira Wanderers 2-1 in 1996 and then ousted Zanaco 3-1 in 2013 on their way to the final.