Usuthu, last season’s runners up, will start the new campaign against the champions after a “disruptive” pre-season according to their star coach
AmaZulu head coach Benni McCarthy has revealed the fitness worries he has ahead of their Premier Soccer League encounter against Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
McCarthy missed as many as 11 players for the MTN8 quarter-final game which Usuthu lost 2-1 against Cape Town City in Durban on Sunday, but the tactician is hopeful he would have all of them available for the season opener.
Genesis of McCarthy’s Worries
“It is not an easy game away from home against Sundowns, but we can prepare ourselves very well,” McCarthy said as was quoted by The Times.
“I think this week, for me, it is going to be just to see if we will be able to get our players registered on time and ready for the Sundowns game, because it was crucial players who I was not able to make use of [against City].
“We had 11 players who tested positive for Covid-19 [ahead of the match against City] so they were self-isolating.
“They will be back at training and we will have everyone available, but these guys have lost 10 days after having to isolate. From Monday to Thursday, they had to get themselves to a decent level so we could compete against the league champions.
“That would be a challenge, but at least it will just be nice to have everyone back and a full squad to choose from.”
The former Bafana Bafana star is further worried that the pre-season disruption could affect his game plan when they take on the defending champions, as well as throughout the season.
“When you play a high press, you have to have a fit team for it. You have to have a team that understands how the press works and where to set the traps,” he added.
“You have to have that and at the moment we are a little bit off the pace because we have had such a disruptive pre-season.
“We did not have the best of pre-seasons but we will work ourselves towards there and see where we are at.”
The coach also opened up about why his side was not keen on going into extra time against Eric Tinkler’s side on Sunday.
“We wanted to avoid extra time because we played in the Premier Cup, which I think was quite hectic for the guys, and we did not have the best week leading up to this game with all the injuries and stuff we had picked up,” he concluded.
“We wanted to avoid extra time and penalties and we wanted to just go for the game.”
As Usuthu bowed out of the MTN8 contest, their season-opening rivals Sundowns advanced into the semis after a tough fight against Kaizer Chiefs.