September 18, 2021

Nedbank Cup: Bloemfontein Celtic’s Maduka wary of fitness levels ahead of Baroka clash

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The Siwelele manager outlines the challenges he has faced as they prepare for the Ke Yona clash

Bloemfontein Celtic manager John Maduka has expressed concerns ahead of his side’s clash against Baroka in the Nedbank Cup semi-final, saying they have to be cautious in their approach.

Phunya Sele Sele are scheduled to face Bakgaga Ba Mphahlele at Orlando Stadium on Saturday afternoon as they look to secure a spot in the final, but the Celtic legend says he is wary of the Limpopo-based outfit.

The eagerly anticipated clash will be the first for both teams since the season was forcefully halted because of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

“Our preparations have so far been good, but it’s not easy [to prepare], it has been difficult for everyone [all the clubs], we have the same challenge [lack of fitness],” Maduka told DailySun. “When we started preparing the team we didn’t know when the league will start.

“We didn’t know whether to push players or not and we kept training trying to adjust,” he added. “It has been difficult because we can’t even play friendlies due to Covid-19 to see whether players are 100 percent okay or not.” 

Maduka had replaced Lehlohonolo Seema who has since left the club to join Chippa United, and the Malawi legend added that it’s been a headache to prepare for coach Dylan Kerr’s troops.

“It’s difficult to plan because we don’t know how they will come at us,” he continued. “We watched their previous matches, but it’s more than three months since they played, so it’s tricky. .

“[However] we have a plan and we will play accordingly and at the end of the day, it’s a cup game, the one we must win. We need to be cautious [on approach] as we don’t know how long players will last [on the pitch], but having five subs gives us a chance because the game has to finish that day.”

The 49-year-old manager will be without his key defender in the form of Ronald Pfumbidzai who is locked down in his home country, Zimbabwe, and will miss the remainder of the current campaign as the borders remain closed.

In the other semi-final encounter, Bidvest Wits will lock horns with reigning Telkom Knockout Cup and Premier Soccer League champions Mamelodi Sundowns at the same venue later in the day.

With coach Gavin Hunt and Pitso Mosimane have also expressed their concerns as far as fitness is concerned, but both teams will also target a place in the final.