If Downs claim a top-two league finish and reach the final of the premier knockout competition, their opponents automatically earn a place in Africa
Baroka FC coach Dylan Kerr has acknowledged that his side is not yet ready for Saturday’s Nedbank Cup semi-final match against Bloemfontein Celtic, but is already envisaging his side in the final against Mamelodi Sundowns.
Baroka kick off the return of football in South Africa against Celtic at Orlando Stadium, before Mamelodi Sundowns take on Bidvest Wits a few hours later at the same venue.
If Sundowns reach the final and then complete the Premier Soccer League (PSL) campaign in the top-two, their opponents in the Nedbank Cup final would be guaranteed participation in next season’s Caf Confederation Cup even if they come out as losing finalists.
That prospect appears to entice Kerr who also want to win Saturday’s match to set the tonic for their relegation fight in their remaining six league games.
“This is the best Cup competition in African football. If we make the final, I think we will be guaranteed a place in the Caf Confederation Cup, if Sundowns make the final too,” Kerr told the South African Football Journalists Association as per SuperSport.com.
“It will set the tempo of the next six [league] games. Baroka have been to two semi-finals before and lost, but hopefully, we can make it third time lucky. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for some players.
“The chairman might give a financial incentive to them, but that shouldn’t be what they are looking for. Something like 80 percent of my players might never make a cup final again. So this is a huge opportunity.”
But Kerr admits that his players are ill-prepared for Saturday’s showdown after almost five months of inactivity.
The Englishman has described their chances of immediately returning to the top of their game after limited preparations as “not realistic.”
“The reality is that we are at the six-week stage of pre-season, in ordinary circumstances, but we have only trained for three. And only as a group for one. So it is not ideal,” said Kerr.
“You cannot have five months without kicking a football and then expect to come back to training and play to the level I would be happy with, and that my chairman would be happy with. It is not realistic. We have seen in the PL [Premier League], La Liga and in Italy, a lot of top players have been missing through injury because of a lack of preparation.
“I am not ready yet, I am not happy playing first game on Saturday knowing I should have three weeks more to get my team into the shape physically and mentality to play these games. It is going to be who can survive the fittest in the 90 minutes. That is what is going to win the game. You have to have a bit of heart and be tough upstairs [mentally].”
On the league front, Baroka are placed 13th on the log and just three points above basement side Black Leopards.