At least avoiding defeat will be enough to take the Buccaneers to the last four of the second-tier continental club championship with a game to spare.
The eight survivors in the competition are vying for spots in the semi-finals of the tournament, while Group B leaders Zamalek and Pirates are highly favoured to achieve that feat ahead of the final day with only Leopards standing in their way.
So basically, Leopards could throw a spanner in the works by defeating Pirates, and then winning their final game of the group against Sfaxien, which would put them on 10 points. However, any result short of victory against their South African opponents will automatically give Pirates and Zamalek their semi-final spots.
In-form Pirates goalkeeper Brighton Mhlongo will miss the tie due to a knee injury. The keeper underwent a successful surgery few days and is expected to recover in six to eight weeks, ruling him out of the group stage. Striker Thabo Rakhale, who has been on target in the last two games strained his adductor muscle a week ago, and remains doubtful, a pity for the South Africans, as he has been their favourite in front of goal. Another piece of bad news for the Bucs is the unavailability of Thabo Matlaba, who has yet to recover fully from an earlier injury.
The combative Congolese are no strangers to success in this tournament, having won the title three years ago. They know exactly what they need to do, and of course they have the recent surprise victory over Zamalek a fortnight ago to inspire them and provide evidence that they can successfully tango with the best in Africa.
In contrast, Pirates coach Eric Tinkler is aware that while Leopards are the underdogs, his team must not underestimate a Congolese club desperate to upset the status quo. He is concerned, however, that all of the talk about how tired his players are due to a hectic games schedule is affecting their mentality in Africa and the domestic league.
“We can’t be using fatigue as an excuse. The more we talk about it, the more we give the players excuses,” Tinkler explained.
“I have tried to explain to the players that you can’t use that as an excuse. You have to come with the same motivation, the same character and same belief you have in Africa and bring it to the league performances,” he added.
“We can do it because we’re not only competing with the best teams in Africa, but beating them,” the coach stated.
Midfielder Mpho Makola scored twice for Pirates in their league match on Tuesday night, contributing to his side winning 4-1 against Chippa United. After the game Makola changed focus to Saturday's encounter with Leopards, showing the attention that is being focused on the continental competition from the popular South African club.
“I am pleased with my performance (tonight), but the most important thing is how we played as a team. At the end of the day it’s about what we achieve as a unit that counts. Hopefully we can carry this goal scoring form into our crucial match against Leopards over the weekend,” the midfielder said.
Due to Mhlongo's injury, Tinkler only has Equatoguinean Felipe Ovono registered for the competition.
Pirates defeated Tunisia’s Club Sportif Sfaxien 2-0 at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg two weeks ago, and the team is looking to use home advantage to secure a win against the visitors from the Congo, who they managed to defeat by a single goal in their first encounter away in central Africa.
Egyptian giants, Zamalek will travel to the Tunisian city of Sfax as guests of CS Sfaxien in the other Group B match on Sunday.
In Group A, holders Al Ahly of Egypt will be away in Tunis on Saturday to face Esperance, who won for the first time against Stade Malien two weeks ago in Bamako. Victory for the two-time African champions will boost their chances and further open wide the group.
Leaders Etoile du Sahel trek Bamako as guests of Stade Malien in the other Group A match.
22.08.2015 19H00 Esperance (Tunisia) vs Al Ahly (Egypt)
23.08.2015 15H30 Stade Malien (Mali) vs Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia)
22.08.2015 18H00 Orlando Pirates (South Africa) vs AC Leopards (Congo)