Team of Choice BMT test

2009-09-12 00:00

AFTER a relatively low-key start to the season, Maritzburg United get a first test of their big-match temperament in their Premier Soccer League game against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium today.

United have managed a good string of results for a solid start to the season with their home draw against SuperSport United, away draw to Wits University, a convincing home win over AmaZulu and last-minute 1-0 defeat away to Platinum Stars with 10 men.

Now the new-look Team of Choice face an entirely different prospect of taking on the country’s best-supported team in their own back yard. In terms of the occasion, this could be United’s biggest test so far.

Chiefs have been drawing good crowds at the modern, revamped, comfortable Orlando Stadium, which is in the heart of Amakhosi’s support base in Soweto. With its European-standard pitch, it has produced a few good spectacles of football already this season.

That, together with the cameras, the press, the fans and a charged-up atmosphere, will make for an enthralling experience for United and, provided they are not left in awe, could have an inspiring effect on the relatively young Team of Choice.

Chiefs might have had their problems this season, not registering a win or being able to find the back of the net in their first three games before their 3-2 victory over equally shaky AmaZulu in Chatsworth a fortnight ago. But Amakhosi are a formidable enough team on paper.

Should the likes of Siphiwe Tshabalala, Abia Nale, Josta Dladla, David Mathebula and Jose Torrealba get into any sort of fluid, skilful stride, then United will be up against it at Orlando.

That is where United’s fitness, high work rate and tempo will come into play, and the Team of Choice will look to close down the spaces when Amakhosi are in possession, then hit them with their snappy passing and punchy, quick attacks, led by pacy winger Felix Obada.

Of United’s new signings, Zambian midfielder Noah Chivuta is clearly the strongest addition and perhaps one of the best buys of the PSL in the early part of the season. It is a measure of the strength of champions SuperSport United that Chivuta struggled to break into the Pretoria team’s starting line-up last season.

Chivuta is likely to tuck into an inside left role again this afternoon, where his intelligent passing and link-up play will be crucial to United as they attempt to pull off an improbable victory.

With Musa Nyatama suspended, 20-year-old Kulegani “Chilis” Madondo will fill the defensive midfield role for United having mostly displayed his neat skills from the substitute’s bench.

Chiefs have been able to use the two-week break from their first win of the season to nurse back to health their walking wounded and dangerous striker Nkosinathi Nhleko, playmaker Dladla and midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane are all available again.

After finally tasting success against AmaZulu, Vladimir Vermezovic’s team will want to keep the momentum going. Not too many in Gauteng would have given unfashionable United too much of a prayer of stopping Chiefs in that objective, which might turn out to be the Team of Choice’s biggest advantage today.

FIXTURES

Today: Lamontville Golden Arrows v Orlando Pirates (Chatsworth Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SABC1), Jomo Cosmos v Free State Stars (Rand Stadium, 3.30 pm), Kaizer Chiefs v Maritzburg United (Orlando Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Mpumalanga Black Aces v Platinum Stars (Ackerville Stadium, 3.30 pm), Mamelodi Sundowns v SuperSport United (Super Stadium, 8.15 pm – live on SABC1 and SuperSport 4)

Tomorrow: Moroka Swallows v Santos (Dobsonville Stadium, 3.30 pm), Bloemfontein Celtic v AmaZulu (Seisa Ramabodu Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Ajax Cape Town v Wits University (Newlands Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SABC1)

In terms ofthe occasion, this couldbe United’s biggesttest so far.

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