Do-or-die for crisis-hit Ajax Cape Town

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SOUTH Africa: To say that Ajax Cape Town have reached crisis point is perhaps an understatement of what is a perilous situation for the club as they prepare to welcome Bidvest Wits to the Athlone Stadium in the Absa Premiership on Wednesday night.

It is one of two vital clashes in the league that will have a bearing on both ends of the table as relegation-threatened SuperSport United host title-chasing Orlando Pirates.

A victory for Ajax, coupled for a win Pirates, would give the table a significantly different look, with the Urban Warriors slipping out of the relegation zone, to be replaced by SuperSport, and Pirates moving to within a single point of leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, though they would have played a match more.

Ajax have had to watch as most of the clubs above them have picked up points in recent weeks, while Platinum Stars below also moved to within three points after a 2-0 win over Polokwane City at the weekend.

It is now do-or-die for Ajax in the final five matches of the season and with their dismal away record that has seen them victorious just three times on the road in the league in the last two years, home points are crucial.

With Zimbabwe international Tendai Ndoro still not available to the side because of a dispute over his eligibility, Turkish coach Muhsin Ertugral has bemoaned the team’s bad luck at a crucial time of the season.

“Every negativity is falling towards us and no luck. Chances that would normally go in are not but if we didn’t have the pressure I’m sure the chances will go in,” he told reporters at the club’s pre-match press briefing.

“We have worked on this. The morale is there. They also know that it’s really just a change of momentum that we need. We will try to get this momentum going with a positive result on Wednesday and then we are going on Sunday to play Chippa.

“But we need to look first to the Wits game. We know how they play, what are their strengths and what are their weaknesses.

“We know it won’t be a pretty game, we need to grind the results out and I’m 100 percent convinced we’ll do everything we can do win that game.”

Defending champions Wits have long since given up hope of retaining their league title, but Gavin Hunt’s charges are still able to secure a place in the top eight, so for them the points are needed as well.

Pirates will be looking to keep up the heat on table-topping Sundowns with victory at SuperSport, whose continued poor form is bordering on the bizarre.

They are certainly tired following their run to the African Confederation Cup Final last year, but too many of caretaker coach Kaitano Tembo’s players are also out of form and there appears to be a crisis of confidence as well.

Pirates are winless in their last eight matches against SuperSport though, which includes a 6-1 away hammering last season, as well as defeat in the last two Nedbank Cup Finals.

Serbian coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic says he is not putting any pressure on his players to perform and says they must simply focus on getting victories, rather than where they are on the league table.

“We are telling the players to not feel any pressure. They must just go and express themselves, let the pressure come to us (the coaches) so that their legs are not locked and they play their football in the best possible way. We want them to play with freedom,” Sredojevic was quoted on IOL.

“We know that things aren’t in our hands. What’s in our hands is approaching the five remaining matches like they are cup finals. We will then see what football will bring us at the end.

“What I am happy about at the moment is that we are in a position to qualify to play in Africa next year. So many people across the continent miss Pirates. We will do everything possible in the remaining five matches to achieve that.

“We have last year’s Caf Confederation Cup finalists ahead of us (on Wednesday). It’s a top test for us and that’s the only thing we are focusing on.”