ORLANDO Pirates and Bloemfontein Celtic will kick-off the 2012/13 season when they meet in the first MTN8 quarterfinal at the Orlando Stadium tomorrow.
Pirates won a second successive treble last season, adding the Telkom Knockout and Absa Premiership titles to the MTN8 they won early in the campaign.
The Buccaneers are looking to win the Top Eight Cup for an unprecedented third successive time. They have retained most of the squad that did duty last year, with Isaac Chansa their only major departure. However, he has been replaced by Nigerian Onyekachi Okonkwo.
Celtic finished last season in eighth place on the league table, narrowly edging out Ajax Cape Town to ensure a top-half finish and a place in the 2012 MTN8. Phunya Sele Sele have shuffled their squad somewhat, bringing in experienced players such as Dominic Isaacs and Kurt Lentjies, though the loss of talented defender Erick Mathoho to Kaizer Chiefs was a big blow.
This will be Pirates’ 11th match in the MTN8 and they are unbeaten in the tournament since 2009, having won the last two editions. Overall, Bucs have claimed nine Top Eight titles, putting second on the honours behind Kaizer Chiefs (14 titles). By contrast, Celtic are playing just their third MTN8 match, having been knocked out at the quarterfinal stage in the last two seasons by Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns respectively.
Overall, Phunya Sele Sele have one Top Eight title (2005). This MTN8 quarterfinal will be the 12th cup match between Pirates and Celtic, but just the second in the Top Eight competition.
Bucs have had the edge in cup matches between the teams down the years, with five wins to Celtic’s two, though the Bloemfontein side has twice defeated the Soweto giants on penalties. In all competitions the teams have met 59 times since 1985, with Pirates again dominating the stats: 32 wins compared to just 11 for Phunya Sele Sele. Bucs have an excellent home record against Celtic (just two losses from 28 matches down the years) and have won the last eight matches across all competitions in which they have played host to the team in green and white. The teams’ last meeting was a league match on 12 May 2012 at the Orlando Stadium: kick-off at 8pm.-www.psl.co.za