KATLEGO Mashego, Bennett Chenene, Joseph Makhanya and Dikgang Mabalane are out to prove a point when Moroka Swallows take on Orlando Pirates at the Dobsonville Stadium on Tuesday night.
Both sides will go into the match wounded, following early exits in the Nedbank Cup at the weekend. The Bucs go into the match on a heavier knock after losing 4-1 to minnows Maluti FET College on Saturday, while the Dube Birds went down 5-3 on penalties to SuperSport United.
To add further fire to the encounter, Birds coach Zeca Marques’s star quartet will be facing their former club in a crucial Soweto derby. "There is no doubt everyone will go all out, especially Chenene, Mashego, Mabalane and Makhanya, who are former Pirates players," Marques said.
"This game will give them the extra spark."
The game will be more special for Mabalane because this will be the first time the winger squares up against his old club.
Marques conceded it would be a tough encounter. "This will be a tricky game," he said. "Pirates will want to bounce back strongly — and so will we."
The Birds coaches commended his troops for their performance in their past four fixtures, where he said he had seen a marked improvement from their early woes at the start of the season. Besides the penalty defeat against SuperSport after being level 0-0 at the end of extra time on Saturday, the Birds have not lost in any of their past three league fixtures — two draws and one victory.
"Our last four performances have been solid," Marques said. "We are quite confident that we can put on another great performance.
"There is lots to play for in this game and the result could change the complexity of the season. If we can at least get a draw we will have done well."
The Birds go into the match injury free, but will be without the services of the suspended Rudi Isaacs.
Pirates will have the opportunity to regain the No1 position on the log, as they trail leaders Kaizer Chiefs by two points and have one game in hand. A win for Roger de Sa’s side will take them one point above Amakhosi.
Rookies University of Pretoria, among the early pace setters at the start of the season, have not won a match since narrowly beating fellow newcomers Chippa United on December 8. On Tuesday night they face neighbours SuperSport United in a difficult Pretoria derby at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.
As if their league form were not bad enough, coach Steve Barker’s men failed to secure a place in the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup at the weekend, losing on penalties to Maritzburg United. Getting back to winning ways is crucial for AmaTuks if they are to hold on to their eighth position on the league table.
Only eight points separate the university side and bottom-placed Chippa.
Wits coach Clive Barker, Steve’s uncle, last week best summed up AmaTuks situation. "Every game is a must-win, from No6 to 16 in the league, no one is safe," he said.
"It is going to be a bun fight until the end."
AmaTuks’ recent winless streak almost compares to Vasco da Gama’s two seasons ago. The Cape Town club soared in the first half of their Premier League until the wheels came off. They were relegated after suffering 14 defeats in 30 matches, set against seven wins and nine draws.
Unlike Vasco, Tuks boasted about their four-year plan to gain top-flight football status. Despite the recent victory drought, they plan to stay in the Premier League.