'MTN8 easiest way to win cup'
THE MTN8, the easiest cup tournament to win according to Premier Soccer League coaches, returns this weekend with semifinal clashes between Mamelodi Sundowns and Moroka Swallows as well as SuperSport United against holders Orlando Pirates.
However, the final will not be decided after these two matches because the format involves a two-legged affair.
Sundowns will first host Swallows at Lucas Moripe Stadium tomorrow at 8.15pm, while United welcome the Buccaneers to Peter Mokaba Stadium on Sunday at 3pm.
The fixtures are then reversed next weekend, where the two finalists will be confirmed.
All four coaches - Johan Neeskens of Sundowns, Zeca Marques of Swallows, United's Gavin Hunt and Augusto Palacios of Pirates - agree the Top 8 is a quick way to claim silverware during a demanding season. "You only play three games and you are in the final. It's definitely the easiest way to win a cup this season," said Marques.
He said earlier this week that he wanted to be a "success" at Swallows. He was joined by Neeskens, who boldly stated he would step down from his post at Sundowns if he failed to win any cup this season.
Neeskens knows all too well the disappointment of bowing out in the semifinals following the previous campaign's 4-3 aggregate defeat to Pirates.
The Downs coach has assessed the Dube Birds and would like his side - even though they are unlikely to achieve a demolition as impressive as their 4-1 quarterfinal rout over Kaizer Chiefs - to have little to do in the second leg.
"Swallows finished as runners-up last season, and they would obviously have ambitions to win something this year. We also want the same. Everybody grabbed their chances last season, and it's time for us to grab ours in these two games," said Neeskens.
The pressure is then on Pirates to retain the cup, and while they have always had it tough coming up against United, completing a league double over Matsatsantsa last season has given them the advantage.
"SuperSport have a balanced team, one of the few clubs in the PSL that can boast about that. But I think we have the winning mentality that is rare in other teams. We fight until the end," said Palacios.
He remains worried that despite winning their Top 8 clash against Bloemfontein Celtic (with a controversial late penalty by Andile Jali), Pirates continue to concede early goals.
Pirates will once again look up to Jali to win, while Swallows will bank their hopes on veteran striker Siyabonga Nomvethe.
Teko Modise's experience will be vital for Sundowns, and Sibusiso Zuma's resurgence should come in handy for Matsatsantsa a Pitori.