AmaZulu coach Pablo Franco admits his side are struggling for match fitness following a long AFCON break.

The DStv Premiership sides are coming off the back of a one-and-a-half month break, meaning players are still getting back up to speed.

Usuthu loooked leggy in their 3-1 defeat to Cape Town Spurs on Saturday and Franco is aware the Durbanites need to shake off the cobwebs as quickly as possible with matches coming thick and fast.

There is no let-up for Franco’s side, who face two tough tests in the space of fours days. First, they play Royal AM in the Nedbank Cup Round of 32 on Saturday before tackling Mamelodi Sundowns on Tuesday in the league.

“The problem now after the break is that we are not at the same level that we used to be and this game is coming soon because this game is crucial for us to win before playing Mamelodi Sundowns on [next] Tuesday,” Franco told the media during a press conference yesterday.

“When we reach the last 16 we will be in a better shape and I think we are going to have our chances like we did in the Carling Knockout. If we can convert them, we can go far. If we can reach our best level again soon and keep improving the way we have been in the first part of the season, I think we are capable of beating any team in the country.”

Franco then focused his attention on the weekend’s KZN cup derby with Royal AM.

“We are not in our best moment and we need to understand that this is a knockout game and no way back. It is going to be a game which may not be decided in 90 minutes, but 120 or even a penalty shoot-out,” he said.

“We will try to do our best and fight for the win. We are trying to be better. If we keep on doing like that, I will be happy. We need to be realistic, AmaZulu is now a better team than a few months ago and this is what we are trying to do. Sometimes results don’t go our way, but we want to keep going with the process of improving this team and the players, which is what we are doing.”