Orlando Pirates' Milutin Sredojevic downplays pressure amid tightly contested Absa Premiership title race


Pirates squandered an opportunity to go level on points with log leaders Bidvest Wits after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Baroka on Tuesday evening.

The Buccaneers also saw defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns creep up behind them to within two points, thanks to a victory over Highlands Park on the same night.

Having stretched their unbeaten run across all competitions to 24 matches, Pirates have still not been able to convert that into league dominance as their tally reads only 32 points from 18 games.

However, Sredojevic has since downplayed suggestions that it is merely between the top three teams, insisting that the likes of Cape Town City and Kaizer Chiefs – in fourth and fifth respectively – cannot be ruled out of the race.

“Respect to both teams, they are doing well, even others are looking to catch up – Cape Town City and the like, even Kaizer Chiefs, never forget that,” said ‘Micho’.

“The sleeping giant [Chiefs] will try to and will wake up, so it’s a competitive league where we have reached some standards regarding those matches that we have not lost in open play.

“It is an injection of motivation for us but, in the same moment, we have no right to feel that it is enough [to challenge for the title].”

Furthermore, the Serbian defended against any pressure given the close proximity of their rivals as he stressed that 12 games is still some distance to go, though he admitted that they can no longer afford to draw and instead need to play as if it is 12 cup finals ahead.

“We do not feel any pressure, we just want every match as it comes to properly measure and test ourselves to see how far we have reached and how good we are,” he emphasised.

“Because, as I’ve said before, the moment you put this in the heads of the players then they cannot express themselves in the best possible way.

“We shall look forward to as much as possible to take the pressure away from the players so they are really testing, measuring and enjoying their football, while [us coaches] shall take all the pressure on ourselves.

“The race is still firmly on, it’s far to speak because there are still 12 games to be played and we are still in 2019 fighting to enter into proper competitive form.

“With that in mind, believing in the work we are doing, the players and support we are getting from the stands, we want to really stretch ourselves, and we look forward to going match-by-match into 12 cup finals.

“We know that it’s not enough to play to draws; we need to have as many wins as possible and then we shall see where we are and where we shall finish in the end.”