Cup specialists take on the hungry Birds
SUPERSPORT United have the pedigree and big-match temperament, but Moroka Swallows have all the reason to be the hungrier team for tomorrow night's MTN8 final at Orlando stadium.
The season's first cup final pits the country's in-form attacking team - Swallows - against a Supersport team who boast arguably the best organised defensive combination.
Swallows have scored 14 goals in five league and cup games this season.
The Birds are built around a host of veteran players who are enjoying a second wind in their careers. The side is motivated to make up for last season's impressive but devastating runners-up league position.
Supersport were 3-0 Nedbank Cup final winners over Mamelodi Sundowns at the same venue in May, and have plenty of trophy pedigree. Birds coach Zeca Marques was eager to label his side the underdogs.
"Supersport are a good team with a good coach who's been with them for years. They've got good pedigree when it comes to finals, which makes us the underdogs," Marques said.
"But that's what makes this final exciting, one team very strong defensive and the other one very strong going forward."
But both sides were avoiding the favourites tag. "I think anybody can win this game," said Supersport coach Gavin Hunt. "If anything Swallows are a more settled team - we've got a lot of new players."
Marques said it is unlikely star striker Siyabonga Nomvethe will have recovered from a foot injury. This was despite Swallows saying earlier this week that Nomvethe would be fit for the final.
And the coach was adamant he is not playing mind games.
"Nomvethe's out, and I'll tell you why. Today was our last training session tactically - tomorrow we only work on set pieces. I can't see Nomvethe miraculously recovering overnight.
''And secondly, he's got three weeks' fitness he's missed. If you go into a cup final you want everybody 100% [fit]."
In the absence of Nomvethe, Katlego Mashego looks set to lead possibly the country's most dangerous front line at present.
Marques said playmaker David Mathebula could theoretically start the game on Saturday, though he has only just recovered from a knee injury. A place on the bench for last season's PSL player of the year candidate seems more likely.
Hunt said his main concern is to get 11 players out onto the field, though not because of injuries.
"What I meant is that for the first time this season the treatment room was empty," he said.
"I've got a full squad of players and it's giving me a huge headache to try and get that starting 11. Whatever I do is going to be wrong - somebody's going to be left out."
By noon yesterday there were 10000 tickets left for the final at the 40000 capacity stadium.
Kick off is at 8.15pm live on SABC1 and Supersport 4.