Well-rested United in good shape to take on Stars

2014-10-17 00:00

THE Bafana Bafana dust has settled and attention moves swiftly back to the PSL this weekend.

For Maritzburg United, the two-week break came at a good time. Coach Steve Komphela’s charges had started the season brightly before running into back-to-back meetings with Kaizer Chiefs — both away — in seven days. They lost both of them 1-0, one in the league and one in the Telkom Knockout.

Komphela was happy with the way his side played in both of those fixtures, but he will surely be even happier to see the back of coach Stuart Baxter and his undefeated Chiefs outfit.

The task tomorrow night is far more inviting as United prepare to host Allan Freese’s Platinum Stars at Harry Gwala Stadium under lights in an 8.15 pm kickoff. It is a match that United will back themselves to win, but the success of Stars under Freese in 2013 when they won both the Telkom Knockout and MTN8 titles is still fresh in the minds. Stars have lost players since then and they haven’t started 2014/15 particularly brightly, limping to just eight points from seven league outings, but Komphela knows that his side is in for a tough old time.

“They [Stars] have a good work ethic. They are very humble in their approach and you can see that there is lots of unity in their side,” Komphela told The Witness at Harry Gwala yesterday.

“Their history gives you an indication that they succeed. You cannot underestimate them.”

United have a near clean bill of health with Deolin Mekoa, Ryan de Jongh and Sheldon van Wyk all recovered from injuries. Sibusiso Kumalo remains the only long-term injury as he prepares for knee surgery. Left back Thabang Matuka sat out the back end of yesterday’s training with an ankle strain, and a decision on his availability will be taken either today or tomorrow.

However, there is no lack of depth in this Maritzburg outfit, and Komphela has a group of extremely flexible players at his disposal.

If Matuka were to be sidelined, Komphela would have the luxury of dropping Khumbulani Banda back from midfield to fullback or shifting John Paintsil across from centre back to fullback. Ryan de Jongh and Abel Mabaso would also have little problem making the adjustment.

One area of concern for tomorrow’s clash is the availability of Ghanaian centre back Mohammed Awal, who has been away with his national side on Afcon qualifying duty. He is due to return today, and along with Bafana Bafana’s Kwanda Mngonyama — also with the national side though he did not play — will be assessed before any decisions are made.

“Kwanda stands a better chance of playing because he was closer and had to travel a shorter distance,” confirmed Komphela.

The coach has highlighted quick, penetrative movement inside the final third and out wide as key focus areas in training this week, indicating that he will look to take the game to Stars.

It is seldom a dull affair at Harry Gwala these days, and with both sides desperate for points, tomorrow should be no different.

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