‘ITS GOING TO BE EXTREMELY TOUGH AGAINST LEOPARDS’
13 August 2020
It’s somewhat a case of stepping out into the unknown for Maritzburg United in Sunday’s Absa Premiership clash against Black Leopards.
Unknown, because it’s the first time ever that there’s been such a long break between official fixtures – Sunday’s match at the FNB Stadium (3.30pm kick off) will mark more than five months since the Team of Choice’s last competitive outing, a 1-0 win over Polokwane City in the league.
And also unknown because it will be the first time playing an official game without a crowd and then there’s also the prospect of Maritzburg not having taken part in any friendly games (against external opposition) in the build-up to the Leopards showdown.
These factors have of course all been brought about by Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown.
It’s certainly new territory for head coach Eric Tinkler in terms of preparations.
“To be honest it’s very difficult for me to assess if we are ready or not,” he said this week. “These are trying times, to be out of the game as long as we were, around four months…we’ve only really been back to training for the past five weeks.
“It’s difficult - especially when you’re not playing any friendly games - to assess whether the players are going to be ready or not. But I’m very happy with what I’ve seen from the guys in training. We’ll only truly know come match day.”
Ahead of the break to proceedings United were flying, having won their last four Absa Premiership games. The aim now is to reignite that same spark and confidence, without getting complacent against a Lidoda Duvha outfit occupying 16th spot on the table.
“We would like to continue in the form we showed before lockdown and would obviously like to get a positive result against Leopards,” coach Eric stated.
“The fact that we playing in Joburg will help us – it benefits us in that it’s not a long trip to Thohoyandou, even if we did get good results there over the past year.”
Maritzburg won’t need any reminding of how hard teams struggling near the foot of the table fight in the last weeks of the season – they were in that exact same position last year.
“It’s going to be extremely tough against Leopards because they are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the league,” the coach continued.
“They’re running out of time and out of games. But that’s for everybody, all the games are going to be extremely tough and we need to be prepared, both physically and mentally for that challenge.
“We can’t go into the match with complacency thinking this is a team at the bottom of the league - they’re fighting for their lives and we are going to have to perform to the best of our abilities. “
The Team of Choice have a full strength squad available for Sunday’s showdown.
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