Johannesburg – Orlando Pirates coach Julio Leal is optimistic about his team’s upcoming African Champions League campaign, despite not being able to field a full squad of players.
Leal said on Monday the Buccaneers had only 23 players available, which limited the coach’s options, ahead of their first-round clash with Angolan team Recreativo do Libolo in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
“The new players in the team came in January and registration of players ended in December,” Leal said.
“We need 25 [players], especially if we move forward in the competition.”
“But it is the same for all the teams. I am happy with the squad that remains – only in one or two positions we don’t have two players to play.
“At the same time, we have players capable of playing central roles and I think we can still do well.
“We’ve tested several formations in training, and in training matches, and they did well. This game will not be like a league game.”
New Pirates signing Luis Boa Morte, the former West-Ham United team-mate of fellow Buccanneer Benni McCarthy, will not be eligible for the Champions League in the early stages of the competition.
“Rooi did a slight twist in his ankle during training, and we took him off immediately to prevent further injury,” Leal said.
“Moeneeb did not come for training for a period, but he has been included in a reserve team that will play this afternoon and we will wait to see how he is.
“In his last game he picked up a slight hamstring injury, so we will see how he goes now.”
Midfielder Isaac Chansa will also be missing from the squad in their mid-week league game against Black Leopards – their first match in the second half of the Premiership season.
The Zambian midfielder was still celebrating his team’s victory in the African Nations Cup final, after they beat Ivory Coast in Libreville, Ghana, on Sunday. He was expected to join the team later in the week.