Bloemfontein Celtic coach Owen da Gama, intends turning their home ground — the Seisa Ramabodu Stadium — into a graveyard for visiting teams.
Phunya Sele-Sele have improved in leaps and bounds since Da Gama took charge in January.
But while Celtic are playing good competitive soccer they are still not clear of relegation, sitting second bottom and badly need to collect three points when they host title chasing Moroka Swallows at their Seisa Ramabodu fortress on Wednesday. Kick-off is at 3.30pm.
Celtic were unlucky to lose 2-1 to Kaizer Chiefs at the Super Stadium on Saturday night and should have gone home with a point, but striker Geoffrey Sserunkuma had a last gasp penalty saved by Amakhosi keeper Itumeleng Khune.
Said Da Gama: ”It is always hard losing especially when we played well. But I was proud of my boys, especially my two young central defenders, Mario Booysen and Johannes Motlhaping. If you lose then it must be by playing youngsters like these two defenders who have a big future.”
Da Gama watched Swallows defeat Orlando Pirates 2-1 at Rustenburg’s Olympia Park on Sunday and said he was impressed by the Birds but stressed: ”No team will leave Seisa Ramabodu Stadium with anything. Failure against Swallows is not an option.
”The faithful Celtic supporters who will pack the stadium and the Celtic fans are different class. They are simply brilliant by the way they get behind the team.
”They will as usual play their part on Wednesday.”
Celtic thrashed Thanda Royal Zulu 6-1 and then defeated title-chasing Ajax Cape Town 2-1 in their two home matches under Da Gama.
He said of the Birds: ”They have gone five games unbeaten now and have beaten Ajax, Chiefs and now Pirates during the five-game unbeaten run. I reckon they will be there or thereabouts challenging for the title. They will finish at least in the top three this season and I rate them very highly.”
But Da Gama has spotted a potential hole in the Birds make-up. ”They did not look comfortable playing on the back foot against Pirates and that is where I want to have them.” But he said Swallows were a side to be respected, having beaten Pirates without two key defenders, Davi Rancan and Vincent Kobola, who were suspended. Both return for the trip to the Free State capital.
Said Da Gama: ”The fact Swallows beat Pirates without two regular defenders showed what depth they have. They have developed into a formidable side after a slow start to the season.”
Da Gama said their bustling striker, Sandile ”AK 47” Ndlovu, is their key player. Ndlovu scored both goals against Chiefs and netted against against Bucs. ”Ndlovu is top notch striker. We need to keep him quiet.”
He said, however, he rates his strike force led by Gert Schalkwyk, Petrus Mahlatsi and the classy midfielder, Mark Mayambela, as the ”hottest” in the league at present and confident his attack can unlock the Birds defence. ”We are scoring regularly and we will be taking the game to Swallows and put them under pressure from the start.”
Da Gama will have former Chiefs and Charlton Athletic striker Shaun Bartlett back plus Ugandan fullback Timothy Batabaire and Democratic Republic of Congo’s central defender Cyrille Mubiala back from injury to bolster his squad against Swallows.
The return of those three experienced players gives Da Gama extra options. — Sapa