Micho: This is a big game

CAF Champions League

Pirates are set to welcome the defending champions in their third round of group fixtures this evening at the Orlando Stadium, where kick-off is scheduled for 21h00.

The Buccaneers are currently top of their pool with four points from two games, leading Esperance merely by a superior goal difference of one.

The Tunisian giants have yet to lose upon a visit to South Africa, and last beat Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 during a Champions League group stage visit to Lucas Moripe Stadium in 2017, while Pirates held them to a goalless draw in their 2013 semi-final but advanced through their away goal on the away-goals rule after drawing 1-1 in Tunis.

Sredojevic has conceded respect for the reigning champions and sees this encounter as a thorough test of the level of South African teams compared to that of the continental champions.

“It’s not every day the champions of Africa come here to play with South African teams, and with that in mind you are telling yourself that this is a big match,” said Micho.

“Previously [Esperance] came here to play against Pirates six years ago in the semi-finals and Mamelodi Sundowns in the group stages two years ago, so practically it is not often that they come this side.

“But this is good for our football. It is good for our football to measure, test and evaluate ourselves to see where we are at present.”

The Serbian tactician, having worked across the continent for nearly two decades, believes one advantage for Bucs is that Southern African players are often less intimidated by North African sides.

“What I respect most about South African players, when they play North African teams, is that they are not as intimidated as some other parts of Africa,” he added.

“We are not intimidated – we respect them but not over-respect. We need to have much more self-respect and such mental strength is extremely important.

“These are very important points in the group – they are counting as golden points, and with the advantage of high altitude and under the presence of our supporters, we really need to throw everything at them on the field to come out on top.”