Malajila’s fitness key for Downs clash

2013-02-14 00:00

WITH Maritzburg United failing to score in their stalemate at AmaZulu on Tuesday night, the fitness of Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila becomes even more important ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with Mamelodi Sundowns at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Malajila is by far United’s leading goal scorer this season, having found the back of the net eight times — a large number considering that the Team of Choice have scored just 18 goals all season.

But the pacey finisher has been out of action for the last three weeks with a knock to his knee, and while he was probably fit enough to play some part in Tuesday’s match, coach Ernst Middendorp opted to give him an extra few days of recovery time.

“We will see how he [Malajila] is doing and maybe he will play some part on Friday,” Middendorp said after his side’s 0-0 draw against AmaZulu. “He is very important for us.”

The domestic schedule is quite tight at the moment, and United are away to Free State Stars on February 20 before travelling to Pretoria for a Nedbank Cup tie on February 23.

Sitting pretty in the top half of the table with a number of new signings, Middendorp is in a position where he needn’t rush any of his injured players back into action.

With the acquisitions of Dillon Sheppard and Heinrich Isaacks, Terrance Mandaza can focus on taking his place as an out-and-out striker, as he did against AmaZulu. But while Mandaza is tall, strong and physically imposing, he lacks the intelligent runs and controlled first touches of Malajila.

There is more good news for United, with Ruben Cloete now available after suspension. The former Orlando Pirates man can be used at left back or, as he was towards the end of the first half of the season, in a holding midfield role. Cloete’s availability was mentioned after the AmaZulu match.

Sundowns, the former PSL champions, continue to fight their way up the table after an abysmal start to the season under then coach Johan Neeskens.

But with former Bafana Bafana mentor Pitso Mosimane at the helm, the Brazilians are undefeated in five matches and will back themselves at what is essentially a neutral venue.

The match kicks off at 8 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

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