The Buccaneers were fortunate to leave QwaQwa with a point after being handed a dubious penalty in a 1-1 draw with Free State Stars on Wednesday night, their sixth stalemate in a row in the Absa Premiership.
It has likely ended their challenge for the league title this season and heaped the pressure on coach Roger de Sa.
But Saturday’s encounter offers the chance for them to turn that poor form around against high-profile opposition. For De Sa it is a chance for redemption too, with club boss Irvin Khoza having targeted African domination as the highest priority for his side.
De Sa is under no illusions as to the task at hand for his side, and says keeping a clean sheet at home could be crucial in the tie.
“Mazembe are one hell of a force in Africa, there is no doubt about it,” De Sa told reporters.
“They went all the way to the World Club Championships and reached the final. They have a lot of experience. We play them first at home … it is important to keep a clean sheet and take something with us (to Lubumbashi).
“We saw the Zambian team at the Afcon, they have good Zambian players and from the Congolese team. There is no doubt, if we make it to the group stages, we will really have been tested.”
Pirates are sweating over the fitness of defender Siyabonga Sangweni and midfielder Oupa Manyisa, while Benni McCarthy is almost certain to miss the tie.
Mazembe have been training in Zambia this week and their former star, Ilunga Mukadi, who also played against Pirates in the 2002 Champions League, says the DR Congo team will come out on top.
“Our opponent on Saturday is not as strong as ten years ago, but can still shine at home thanks to their fans,” Mukadi told tpmazembe.com.
“There is nothing to fear, they are the ones who are worried about meeting Mazembe at this stage. It is up to us to remain confident and focused, and not take it too easy.”
Mazembe won the last tie between the two sides 11 years ago 4-2 on aggregate. After a 1-1 draw in Lubumbashi, they won 3-1 in Johannesburg.
Saturday’s PSL Fixture:
University of Pretoria v Free State Stars- 3pm
Platinum Stars v Chippa United – 3pm
Moroka Swallows v Kaizer Chiefs- 6pm
Ajax Cape Town v Bidvest Wits – 8:15
AmaZulu v Sundowns- 3pm
Celtic v Arrows- 3pm
SuperSport v Maritzburg United