True to the clique of leftbacks, Bradley Carnell is a big admirer of Orlando Pirates captain Thabo Matlaba.
Carnell ran up and down the left flank in a distinguished career for club and country, and is now learning his trade on the other side of the touchline as an assistant coach of Free State Stars.
Ea Lla Koto come up against Pirates this evening in Bethlehem and Matlaba will return from suspension for the Buccaneers to take on his former club.
“I love the energy about Matlaba,” said Carnell.
“He doesn’t respect the position as a natural leftback but he also creates so much going forward and gives an option to his attack. We are doing our homework, but it is not hard to see his impact.
“He is an exclamation mark to be careful of, but it is not only him, it is his combination with Sifiso Myeni, Mpho Makola and Thabo Rakhale – they have a lot of positives going forward but it is our job to counter that and come up with solutions. We have always given Pirates a tough time in previous meetings and I don’t see it being any different.”
Free State Stars are looking to recover from defeat to Jomo Cosmos at the weekend, a loss that has dragged them closer to a relegation battle.
“Obviously the disappointment of Cosmos was apparent, but the team put out a good performance, we played a lot of positive football. It is important we bounce back, we are playing a team of the calibre of Pirates and we should respect them, but we have also seen inconsistencies in their campaign. We are just carrying half a hospital ward!”
Long-term casualties include experienced players like Andrea Fileccia, Sthembiso Ngcobo, Moeketsi Sekola, Davies Nkausu and Themba Shabalala. Justice Chabalala should return from suspension to face Pirates.
“It is a big blow, but we have good depth in our squad and why shouldn’t youngsters step up and be accounted for. It is a good opportunity, you look at a player like Lucky Mohomi who has come on the scene and done well.”
Pirates have blown hot and cold this season, most recently going down 2-1 at home to Mamelodi Sundowns, despite an improved second-half display.
“We follow them quite closely and we see them playing fantastically at one moment and the next moment there is a chink in their armour, but it is our job not to focus too much on the opposition, we just have to focus on what we have. We are in a very tough moment and the water is deep where we are treading, so we need to swim out quick,” added Carnell.
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