Rob Delport previews Saturday’s MTN8 Final between Bloemfontein Celtic and Orlando Pirates, and what a victory could mean for either club.
The first cup final of the domestic 2020/2021 season is upon us, as Celtic take on Pirates at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday evening.
This is one of those games, that on paper, should be a walk in the park for the Soweto giants. But as they say, football isn’t played on paper, it’s played on grass.
If we gave a neutral party all the players in both squads, and asked them to pick an eleven, how many Celtic players would actually get selected?
I hate to say it, but I might not select any.
Yes, Celtic have a few talented players, some experienced heads, and a few rising stars, but Pirates are just better equipped currently. While I am excited about a player like Sifiso Ngobeni, would I select him ahead of Bafana Bafana regular Innocent Maela? Celtic’s captain Ndumiso Mabena is one of my favourite players actually, and I think he’s matured into a consistent and reliable goalscorer – but would I pick him, or last season’s top goalscorer Gabadinho Mhango? No, I think a neutral person would pick the higher profile Pirates players every time.
But that is also the magic of football, because Celtic actually do stand a chance of winning this cup, despite what I just said.
They are about to play in their second consecutive final, after being runners-up in last season’s Nedbank Cup, and have shown they are no walkovers. They know that while they are the underdogs, this is not a David versus Goliath situation. And they are playing a team who are desperate for silverware, and desperation can be dangerous.
Despite all of the abundantly talented players in the Buccaneers’ squad, the club haven’t won a trophy since 2014. Winning is a habit, and Pirates’ coach Josef Zinnbauer knows that if they can overcome this hurdle, it will mean a lot to the mental status of the players.
Victory in the MTN8 Final could turn this Pirates squad into proper league challengers.
Zinnbauer joined Pirates a year ago today, and he has definitely improved the team since his arrival, and over this past transfer window, the club strengthened in almost all departments.
Lifting the MTN8 trophy could just be the missing ingredient to give this squad that ‘championship mentality’ – the one thing that perhaps they’ve been lacking in.
In Celtic’s case, winning the trophy would probably have a very different meaning.
While, as a football romantic, Celtic are one of my favourite clubs, I don’t think they have had aspirations of being a PSL powerhouse for many years.
Their loyal fans however do deserve something to celebrate. Siwelele supporters are special. Despite their team never becoming a successful giant, or even seemingly striving to be one like Amazulu are currently doing, the fans have remained loyal to the team.
Reaching the Nedbank Cup final was seen as a big achievement, and they will probably feel the same about reaching this one. Winning it, would be a bonus. So they really have got nothing to lose, and teams with nothing to lose can be dangerous too.
When it comes to general form, the odds favour Pirates here too. They are 4th on the table, and undefeated in all competitions this season.
While Celtic have done well in this cup, and also to get through the preliminary round of the CAF Confederations Cup, their DSTV Premiership form leaves a lot to be desired. They are 14th on the table, losing three of their five games.
So who is going to win on Saturday? Well, if Pirates bring their A game, they will. If all eleven Pirates players put in their best performances of the season so far, Pirates will lift the trophy.
But if they don’t, then it’s anyone’s ball game…
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila 2-3 SuperSport United
Mamelodi Sundowns 0-1 Bloemfontein Celtic
Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 Maritzburg United
Orlando Pirates 1-0 Cape Town City
Orlando Pirates 3-0 Kaizer Chiefs (1st leg)
Kaizer Chiefs 0-2 Orlando Pirates (2nd leg)
SuperSport United 1-1 Bloemfontein Celtic (1st leg)
Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 SuperSport United (2nd leg)