Birds prepare to rise from the ashes

It’s payback time for bottom-ranked club Moroka Swallows who are determined to turn the corner on a disappointing season so far, according to captain Lefa Tsutsulupa.

The Birds—preparing for a Soweto derby clash with Orlando Pirates at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday—are without a win in the Absa Premiership this season.

German coach Rainer Zobel got the boot last month after he collected two points from nine matches in charge.

Zobel was replaced two weeks ago by Gordon Igesund, a four-time championship winner with four different clubs, including Pirates.

Igesund started with a hard fought 1-1 draw over Santos in Cape Town last Friday night and already his influence on the players was in evidence.

‘Gordon has been like a breath of fresh air,” Tsutsulupa said.

“He is a straight talking coach; one that the players appreciate and respect.

“We know where we stand with him and what he wants and expects from the players.”

“Pirates beat us in the MTN8 final and our slide started after that defeat in Durban,” he said.

Resurrecting the side
“We aim to set the record straight and it’s the perfect game for us to get our first win and start climbing off the foot of the table.”

Igesund said his team would be positive and promised they would attack Pirates.

“There is no quick fix to Swallows’ problems, but beating Pirates would go a long way in resurrecting the side. I am confident we can surprise,” Igesund said.

Bucs recovered from back-to-back defeats by their other Soweto rivals, Kaizer Chiefs, with a 2-1 league win over Bloemfontein Celtic last weekend and are among the pace setters in the standings.

Captain and key defender Lucky Lekgwathi, who was concussed during their 2-1 win over Celtic, will be available for Pirates this weekend.

Also returning to duty from suspension is defender Rooi Mahamutsa.

However, Bucs coach Ruud Krol is without flying winger Daine Klate, who has been suspended and remains injured. Striker Thulasizwe Mbuyane, who suffered an ankle injury against Celtic, is a doubtful starter.

Bucs spokesperson Mickey Modisane said the absence of Mbuyane provided a chance for other players such as Katlego Mashego and Ezenwa Otorugu to shine.

Botswana international Phenyo Mongalo was set to return for Klate on the left wing.

Modisane said he expected Swallows to come out guns blazing.

“They will be fired up.
hey will think because we have lost back-to-back Soweto derbies against Chiefs we are there for the taking,” Modisane said.

“No ways ... we showed our character against Celtic after losing in the [Telkom] Knockout final to Chiefs.

“Krol has set a target of nine points from the last three matches of the year and we have three of those already so we are on track. The knockout final loss is history, and the goal is the league.”

Modisane also expected that Swallows would want to exact revenge for the MNT8 final defeat.

‘Superb tactician’
“That was the start of their problems and we know they will be out to redeem themselves, but that is not going to happen,” he said.

“They are staring another defeat in the face.”

Modisane, nonetheless, said he had tremendous respect for Igesund who won the championship with Bucs in 2001.

“Igesund is a superb tactician and analyst. He will have worked out our strengths and weaknesses. It adds up to an absorbing battle.”

Chiefs meet BidVest Wits at Polokwane’s Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.

After losing to Vasco Da Gama and Free State Stars, Amakhosi need three points to stay in touch with leaders Mamelodi Sundowns who head the table with 24 points—seven more than Chiefs.

“We have to narrow that seven point gap and cannot afford another slip up against Wits,” said Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic.

In other action on Saturday, champions SuperSport United host Golden Arrows at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, and Platinum Stars entertain Santos at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

Sundowns face a tough trip to the Athlone Stadium on Friday night to face second placed Ajax Cape Town. The Urban Warriors are four points off the pace and a win would throw the title race open. - Sapa

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