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Pirates will dig deep to fly high

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With the league reaching its climax, Orlando Pirates have eight games to ensure that they finish in the top two.

Vincent Pule of Orlando Pirates (left) celebrates goal with teammates during the DStv Premiership 2020/21 match against Maritzburg United recently. Picture: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

ORLANDO Pirates still fancy their chances of finishing in the top two in the Premiership standings and qualifying for the Caf Champions League next season, with coach Josef Zinnbauer saying his troops will fight until the very end.

Pirates are third on the league standings with 38 points, three behind second-placed Golden Arrows who have played one game more. But with the league reaching its climax, Pirates have eight games to ensure that they finish in the top two.

“In the moment, we don’t have enough points to say that we can go to the Champions League. But we have to fight with the game coming up on the weekend, because if we win the game, I think we have a chance to go to second,” Zinnbauer said.

“And then we can talk about a second or third-place finish. But if you lose the game, it’s not done but it will be difficult. Then all the teams will have a chance at the end of the season. But we have to fight and the players need to be ready and focus on the weekend.”

Tomorrow, the Buccaneers will take a short trip from Orlando to Dobsonville to visit Swallows FC in the original Soweto derby. But the three points won’t come on a silver platter for Pirates, given that the Birds are still aiming to soar on the log.

Since gaining automatic promotion back to the top flight, Swallows have been one of the surprise packages this season. They are fifth on the log with 37 points, one behind Pirates, and know that a top-three finish is still achievable.

Picture: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

“We know the game is a derby, but what’s important for us is the points. We are fighting for points and so are Swallows. We have to fight for the points. We cannot say it’s our last derby of the season. At the end of the day we need points,” Zinnbauer said.

Pirates, though, will have their job cut out for them in their bid to finish in the top two as they are hellbent on winning the Caf Confederation Cup as well. They are top of Group A, with nine points, with just one round to play.

They needed Enyimba to win or draw against Ahli Benghazi yesterday, or Pirates will have to secure a point in their last game against the Peoples’ Elephant in order to reach the last eight. But overall, Zinnbauer says that as long as they have a fully-fit squad, they can achieve their targets.

“It’s always bad when we have a lot of players injured,” he said. “We have a squad, but with so many games it’s not easy to handle for the players. It’s not always the legs which are tired, but also the mental capacity especially if you look at the travelling.

“It’s not easy for the players. In the last few weeks, they’ve not had a day off. And mentally that’s not easy. But we have a good squad, you saw today (on Wednesday, during the draw with ES Setif in the Confederation Cup) we fought, although it was not easy.”

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