Free State Stars’ battle for survival in the ABSA Premiership continues on Saturday as they take on table-toppers Orlando Pirates in Soweto.
It’s the first game back in action for Ea Lla Koto since their impressive 4-1 win over Amazulu in mid-March, and coach Nikola Kavazovic will be eager to see his team build on that victory when they take on the Buccaneers in their own backyard.
During their lengthy lay-off, the Stars players have had to cope with the death of their talented midfielder Sinethemba Jantjie, who sadly lost his life in a car accident on April 1.
The team travelled down to the Eastern Cape last weekend to pay their last respects at Jantjie’s funeral, and if they can manage to beat Pirates on Saturday, no doubt the victory will be dedicated to their fallen brother.
Not that beating high-flying Pirates will be an easy task, and vice-captain Makhehleni Makhaula knows it all too well.
Makhaula hopes to leave the Orlando Stadium with nothing less than a point, which would be a good result in their quest to escape from the relegation zone.
“It’s been 3 weeks without since we last played a competitive match, but we are ready for tomorrow’s clash,” said Makhaula.
“Both clubs have something to play for – Pirates are chasing the league title whilst we are striving to move away from the relegation zone.
“We will try to at least get maximum points and the worst results for us should be at least a draw.”
Stars currently find themselves down in 15th place in the table with 24 points, although they have a game in hand on both Chippa United and Baroka, who are also on 24 points but are slightly ahead on goal difference. Meanwhile, Black Leopards on 25 points and Amazulu on 26 are not safe either.
The battle is far from over, and a strong finish over these last six games of the season would still see the men from Bethlehem staying afloat.
Free State Stars and Orlando Pirates have met on 21 previous occasions, with the Buccaneers winning 11 and Ea Lla Koto four, with six games being drawn.