AmaZulu ready to face Ajax without two key players

2014-02-04 00:00

THEY have played more games than the other clubs around them, but AmaZulu are still by far KwaZulu-Natal’s shining light in the PSL this season as they prepare for tonight’s Moses Mabhida clash against Ajax Cape Town.

2014 has been kind to coach Craig Rosslee’s men, who have a draw (1-1 v Orlando Pirates) and a win (1-0 v SuperSport United) to their names since the dawn of the new year.

Usuthu’s exact recipe for success on their way to fifth place in the log is difficult to identify. Many of their matches have seen them snatch victory out of nowhere — as was the case in last week’s shock victory at SuperSport — but they will look to control tonight’s clash against the 10th placed Urban Warriors from start to finish.

Rosslee will be buoyed by his side’s defensive work after the SuperSport clash, and word is that goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has recovered from a concussion in time for tonight. But, the club captain might not simply waltz back into the starting lineup after an inspired performance Philani Zikalala against SuperSport.

The bad news for Usuthu is that playmaker Kulegani Madondo is out suspended. This is likely to see January signings John Arwuah and Nhlanhla Shabalala partnered together in AmaZulu’s midfield hub for the first time this season, though Rosslee also has the option of pulling back Goodman Dlamini into a more defensive role in the middle of the park.

“Madondo has been brilliant for us in the last two games and there is no doubt that we will miss his presence,” said Rosslee. “But we are more than compensated for and that is where our new signings have given us depth.”

There is also no Marc van Heerden, with the ever-present fullback looking to launch his career in Europe and on a 10-day trial with Swedish outfit Orebro SK. Sifiso Hlanti is likely to start at left back tonight, and the coach has encouraged the 23-year-old to put his hand up in Van Heerden’s absence.

“He [Hlanti] is a fantastic player and now he gets to stake his claim,” said the charismatic Rosslee. “It looks good for him. He is a big lad and used to play on the wing, so it gives us an advantage moving forward.”

One man who is guaranteed to start is Zimbabwean centre-back Carlington Nyadombo, whose equaliser against Pirates on January 23 blew the roof, or arch, off of the Moses. Nyadombo, who also scored in AmaZulu’s 2-1 win over Ajax in the first round of league fixtures last year, will continue to captain the side if Kapini is absent and has demanded a strong work ethic from his players.

“As the leader of the team at the moment, I need to use my work rate to push them,” he said yesterday. “I’m a believer in hard work …”

While tonight sees Ajax arrive under a new coach in caretaker Ian Taylor following Mushin Ertugral’s resignation, Nyadombo still believes that his side has a mental edge because of their victory in the first half of the campaign.

“Knowing that we have beaten them on their home ground already this season gives us a psychological advantage and a belief,” said the 28-year-old. “They will come here [Durban] and defend. It is all up to us.”

It is all up to AmaZulu, and Rosslee is looking for a dominant display from his charges in what he anticipated to be an exciting encounter.

“Both sides have been looking to play an attacking, entertaining brand of football with lots of passing and possession,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of technical ability out there on the park. We need to be more dominant in our home games.”

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised live.

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