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Football | Absa Premiership

Clinton Larsen © Backpagepix

Larsen upbeat ahead of Free State derby



While the Soweto derby is set to take centre stage this weekend, Bloemfontein Celtic coach Clinton Larsen believes the Free State derby, featuring Phunya Sele Sele and Free State Stars, will also provide fireworks.

"It's always a battle when these two sides meet," Larsen said ahead of Sunday's encounter in Phuthaditjhaba.

Celtic, lying eighth in the Premiership table after 13 rounds of matches, were eager to carry their cup form into the league campaign after lifting the Telkom Knockout trophy last week.

"Everybody was waiting to shoot us down after the Telkom Knockout final win and expecting us to lose our next few games, but we are going out to prove everybody wrong," Larsen said.

"We are not going to do what other teams have done in the past – win and then start losing games after that.

"We'll keep fighting for every point and see where that puts us by the end of December."

Celtic have had to contend with a gruelling run of five fixtures in the space of two weeks, which included a 1-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns in the cup final in Durban.

Larsen was pleased to have a few extra days' rest ahead of the Stars clash, after the Bloemfontein outfit drew 1-1 against SuperSport United in their last match on Tuesday night.

"We've had four days of rest before Free State Stars, and at least the players will get enough rest for that game," he said.

"A few of the players in the SuperSport United game looked dead on their feet.

"We only had two days to rest after the cup final and it showed in the first half against United."

The cup victory over Sundowns had lifted the spirits in the camp, according to Larsen, and served as a boost that could push them up the league standings.

"We'll get better as the season progresses. The players have started to believe in themselves, there's no doubt about it.

"There is such a unity and team spirit in this team, it's actually tangible… you can see it, you can feel it, and that is what is special about this group of players that I've got.

"I always give my players credit for fighting the way they do."

In Sunday's other fixtures, Mamelodi Sundowns host Black Leopards in Atteridgeville, and AmaZulu welcome Wits to Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

On Saturday, all eyes will be on the Soweto derby, as Orlando Pirates take on Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium, while Platinum Stars entertain Golden Arrows in Phokeng, and the University of Pretoria take on Chippa United at Tuks Stadium.

The weekend's action was set to kick off on Friday evening, with Moroka Swallows hosting SuperSport United in Dobsonville and Ajax Cape Town taking on Maritzburg United at Athlone Stadium.

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