Celtic running game key - Bapela
Mamelodi Sundowns will win the Telkom Knockout final on Saturday if they can stifle the running game of Bloemfontein Celtic, according to assistant coach Alex Bapela.
The two sides meet in the competition decider at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, where the Brazilians will be aiming to win their first trophy in over four years dating back to mid-2008.
“If we can stop them from running, especially their forward line, that's where we can probably win the game,” Bapela told reporters on Thursday.
Celtic's attacking style have won many admirers en-route to the final, particularly their victories over Orlando Pirates and Free State Stars in the quarter and semifinal respectively.
“This Celtic side is the most exciting team in the PSL," Bapela said.
"They've got very good players, they've got athletes and they've got players that can run for the entire 90 minutes.
“So playing against them you have to make sure that you do not make a mistake at any time, the first minute or the 90th minute. They are very good.”
The Pretoria outfit are in search of their third Telkom Knockout crown and first in 13 years – they last lifted the cup in 1999.
However, their run to the final has been overshadowed by their woeful Premiership form that has seen them win just twice in 12 games to sit second-bottom on the log.
Bapela was quizzed about the reasoning for their contrasting fortunes in the two competitions. He said it was probably down to the attitude of the players.
“A cup game is a once-off thing; you play now and you are in the next round and that's what matters most,” he explained.
“In the league, I think most our players are holding back, they are not exerting themselves as much as they have been doing in the cup.
“That's why we are struggling in the league and playing to a draw or allowing the other team to score in the last minute. In the cup you score one goal and you are through.”
The Sundowns No 2 also defended under-fire coach Johan Neeskens for his comments at the start of the season when he stated he will ‘resign' if the club failed to win anything in 2012/13.
“I think it's good for him to say that and even if I was him, I would have also said it,” Bapela said.
“The more you have pressure, the harder you push yourself to achieve success.
“In football there is always pressure and pressure has to be your middle name. Him being under pressure, means it pushes Sundowns to go the extra mile to work very hard.”