Stern test for United

2013-09-14 00:00

MARITZBURG United will face their toughest test so far this season when they take on league champions Kaizer Chiefs at the FNB Stadium this evening.

The Team of Choice will look to maintain their two-year unbeaten record against the Glamour Boys, but they will have to ensure they keep the strike pairing of Knowledge Musona and Bernard Parker — who both scored on international duty this week — quiet.

New boy Ashley Hartog could be handed his debut for the club after having returned from injury, which should give coach Ernst Middendorp much- needed attacking ammunition with veteran midfielder Delron Buckley having to miss the trip to Johannesburg due to injury.

The club could also be without Ghanaian striker Mohammed Yakubu who did not train on Wednesday. Middendorp could choose to leave him out, and save him for the midweek game against Mpumalanga Black Aces.

This could see Terrance Mandaza start up front with Hartog playing just off him. Middendorp could also drop Hartog deeper and play five men in midfield, leaving Zimbabwean Mandaza as the lone man up front.

United will miss Yakubu should he not play, but following his performance against the University of Pretoria two weeks ago, Mandaza will be confident and full of running should he lead the line.

Although both sides have picked up just one point in their last two games, United will be confident in knocking the champions off their perch. Chiefs have won just two of their last 10 games stretching back into last season, and were thumped 3-1 by fellow league contenders SuperSport United two weeks ago.

But, on Wednesday Middendorp said they were not looking at how other teams were doing, but were preparing themselves and focusing on their game, a sentiment that was shared by team captain Michael Morton.

“Reclaiming the glory” was the mantra at Naturena all of last season. But, having won just two of their last five games in all competitions this season, Stuart Baxter’s boys will be looking to reclaim the form that saw them lift last season’s league title.

However, Middendorp still saw Amakhosi as a good side.

“They are one of three or four teams that will be going for the title,” he said during the week, adding that Amatsatsantsa were also contenders.

Having not lost to Chiefs in two years, captain Morton said they always relished the challenge of playing against the Glamour Boys.

“We’ve done well against Chiefs away over the last two years,” he said.

If they do well, it could just be the kick that Middendorp’s boys need to launch a real assault and mount a serious challenge for that elusive top-eight spot.

The game will start at 8.15 pm and will be broadcast live on SuperSport 4 and SABC1.

Maritzburg line-up (possible)

1. Shu-Aib Walters, 3. Mario Booysen, 4. Mohammed Awal, 5. Robyn Johannes, 6. Michael Morton, 18. Ryan de Jongh, 11. Orlando Smeekes, 79. Dillon Sheppard, 25. Ashley Hartog, 19. Terrance Mandaza.

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