Ajax Cape Town head coach Stanley Menzo has highlighted the importance of the upcoming match against Free State Stars, scheduled to take place at Athlone Stadium on Friday evening.
The Absa Premiership match is set to get underway at 20h00 CAT.
For Menzo the game holds some personal significance as Free State Stars – away – was his first assignment as head coach of the Urban Warriors.
Ea Lla Koto have had a change in coach since then, with former Bloemfontein Celtic and Golden Arrows head coach Serame Letsoaka having taken over the reins at the Bethlehem-based club.
Free State Stars sit a mere three points behind the Cape side heading into this weekend’s fixture, with Ajax eager to move further away from the relegation zone as they set their sights on a potential top eight finish.
“It is a team that is close to us on the log standings and also the first team I faced when I took over [as head coach],” said Menzo. “They have changed coach in the meantime, I think it is a team that yes – they are low down on the log standings – but they are not an easy team to play against.
“They are very direct, have good individual players and they play at a high pace – a lot of runs from midfield. It won’t be an easy game, but yes like I’ve said before, the teams around us – here is where we have to get our points.
“Home advantage is home advantage, yes the pitch isn’t as good at Athlone [as compared to Cape Town Stadium], but that is the case for both teams. The three games we played at Athlone, it didn’t treat us too badly so it’s fine to me.
Menzo admits it will be a bigger challenge to gee up his players for this match, as compared to the last match at the same venue, when a full house watched the Urban Warriors and crown-pullers Kaizer Chiefs play to a 1-1 draw.
“As I look from a player and coach’s perspective, these type of games add more pressure because you have to pick up points,” Menzo continued.
“Those higher league fixtures, yes it is a bonus to get points against them [teams] – you don’t have to motivate the team or players, everything comes from the environment, the opponent and now we have to bring it forward ourselves.
“But, yes, we are professional and I think the team is aware of what we have to do, where we are on the standings. For me, this week I let the players know where we are and let them take the responsibility – it is up to them.
“As coaching staff we give the ingredients and they [the players] have to finish [the meal],” Menzo concluded.