Testing time for Kaizer Chiefs

2014-10-12 15:00

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Kaizer Chiefs resume their Absa Premiership campaign against Ajax Cape Town next Sunday in what will mark the beginning of a series of tricky hurdles over the next six weeks.

Amakhosi’s upcoming fixtures include Soweto derbies against Moroka Swallows and Orlando Pirates, as well as a match against defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns (see fixtures).

All these sides – with the exception of the struggling Swallows – are trailing Amakhosi at the top of the Premiership standings.

A victory for Amakhosi over second-placed Ajax Cape Town at Cape Town Stadium will open a 10-point gap.

Fourth-placed Sundowns and Pirates (fifth) are eight and nine points adrift of Chiefs, respectively.

In Cape Town, coach Stuart Baxter’s charges will not only be gunning for the three points, but Amakhosi will be chasing a record 13th straight win in all competitions.

Chiefs equalled Sundowns’ 2007 feat of 12 wins in a row last Saturday, when Baxter’s team edged Maritzburg United 1-0 in the first round of the Telkom Knockout.

Based on Chiefs’ run so far, there is a sense of competition in the team, where every player performs at his best.

Baxter spent much of last season searching for a well-balanced system and he has discovered harmony in the 4-2-1-3 and the 4-3-2-1 patterns.

Chiefs thrive on transition when they are in possession, turning this advantage into goals.

The formation involves Willard Katsande and Reneilwe Letsholonyane in central midfield, where they are complemented by Mandla Masango on the right, George Lebese (left) and George Maluleka behind the strikers. The latter trio, who are all attack-minded players, have been baptised “Ma-Le-Ma” by the Amakhosi faithful.

The intelligence of Maluleka has effected the major change in the Chiefs midfield as the former Ajax player offers more forward passing and can also chip in with goals.

This is different from Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala, who often pass sideways.

On paper, Chiefs do not boast a massive squad when compared with Pirates and Sundowns, but Baxter has a rather manageable side.

His team rotation has also paid dividends as almost every registered squad member has had a run this season, including all the three goalkeepers – Itumeleng Khune, Brilliant Khuzwayo and Reyaad Pieterse.

Chiefs are also utilising the reserve league, where some of their senior players such as Josta Dladla, Matthew Rusike and Hendrick Ekstein are enjoying regular game time in the MultiChoice Diski Challenge.

Amakhosi have profited mainly on repeat encounters this season as seven of their wins were against the same opponents.

Four of those victories were in Cup encounters.

They have already beaten Platinum Stars thrice, and will meet the Phokeng-based side once more in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinals on October 26.

Chiefs have scored double victories over Maritzburg United and Mpumalanga Black Aces.

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