Orlando Pirates vs Zamalek | Saturday 11 July | Mbombela Stadium | 15:00
Orlando Pirates have had no time to recoup in the off-season like other PSL clubs as they chase glory in the CAF Confederation Cup. The Buccaneers will host Egyptian giants Zamalek this weekend in what is their second group game following their victory over AC Leopards of Congo two weeks ago.
To Win (90mins)
Orlando Pirates 9/10
Orlando Pirates made a winning start to their Group B campaign in the CAF Confederation Cup as they ground out a 1-0 win away at AC Leopards in Dolisie. Happy Jele scored the only goal of the game just before the hour mark. The goal sparked a reaction from the hosts and Pirates were forced to sit back and defend for the rest of the match. Some solid defensive work from Pirates ensured a clean sheet and vital three-point haul for the visitors. A capacity crowd and poor playing conditions welcomed Pirates, but that was something Eric Tinkler's men have come to expect in their ventures into the African continent in the past two years. The win extended Pirates’ excellent unbeaten record in this year’s Confederation Cup, where they have now won five times and drawn twice. The Sea Robbers will be looking to replicate their excellent home form that saw them win every home leg until they reached the group stage. They nipped a 2-1 win over Uganda Revenue Authority at home in the first round but then romped to 3-0 and 4-1 wins against Gabon’s CF Mounana and Guinea’s AS Kaloum respectively.
Forgotten striker Abdoulaye Cisse scored his first goal in more than nine months to help Zamalek make a winning start to their Confederation Cup group stage campaign following a late 1-0 home victory over Tunisia's Sfaxien on Saturday. With the final whistle quickly approaching, the Burkina Faso international was introduced in the 86th minute as Zamalek embraced an all-out attack in the latter stages. Just four minutes later he latched onto a low cross from versatile midfielder Omar Gaber to find an empty net and spark wild celebrations among the players and technical staff members. It was the White Knights’ first win over the three-time Confederation Cup winners in twelve years, in which time they lost on four occasions and drew once. It was also Zamalek's first opening group-stage win in any African competition in thirteen years as they moved level on three points with Pirates.
Zamalek, five-time Champions League victors, are looking to carry their impressive domestic form onto the continental stage, as they are eyeing a first ever crown in Africa’s second-tier club competition. They find themselves in the Confederation Cup after only placing third domestically last season. However, this season they find themselves six points clear of defending champions Al Ahly with just five games remaining. Their last league title came back in the 2003/04 season. Lying on top of arguably Africa’s strongest league will give them the much needed confidence for away travels such as these. They played three two-legged ties to qualify for the group stages and managed two away wins and lost just once on the road. Their first away game was in Rwanda where they walloped Rayon Sports 3-0 and a 3-2 victory over Morocco’s Rabat followed before they were beaten 1-0 in DR Congo by Sanga Balende.
VERDICT: Orlando Pirates 9/10
Zamalek had a league fixture on Monday night as they cope with the business end of their league. Pirates are well rested as they have been working solely for CAF competition. Some of the Zamalek players could be further fatigued here as the match will take place during their religious fasting period of Ramadan. These clubs are familiar with each other after also being drawn in the group stages of the 2013 Champions League together. Pirates won their home fixture 4-1 against Zamalek before losing 3-1 in Egypt. Back Pirates to build on their excellent home record in Africa this season and move three points clear of Group B with a win.