Team of Choice ‘in a battle’

2012-03-28 00:00

COACH Ernst Middendorp acknowledges that the mood in the Maritzburg United camp is tense ahead of tonight’s PSL clash with Platinum Stars at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

United have slipped to 13th position on the league table and are now just six points clear of the relegation/promotion play-off position (15th) — currently occupied by Black Leopards.

“We know that we are in a battle,” the coach told The Witness.

“We have got ourselves into this situation and now we need to be more concentrated on and off the pitch; everybody has much more to deliver.”

Middendorp confirmed that he had given his players two days off after their disappointing 1-0 loss to Leopards at Harry Gwala last Wednesday.

“We were looking at getting the players refreshed and we are happy because we have everybody available [for tonight’s match],” he said.

The only slight injury concern for tonight is fullback Rheece Evans, who did damage to ligaments in his leg during the Leopards match.

Middendorp emphasised the importance of the next four weeks of fixtures. He said: “It is important that we are clear and structured in this moment.

“We have a cup game too so we need to be careful.”

Middendorp also confirmed that Nigerian winger Felix Obada would not start tonight.

“He gets special attention from the other teams and we are not getting enough out of him at the moment,” said the former Kaizer Chiefs and Golden Arrows boss. “I have spoken to him and he will not start.”

Middendorp added that Obada would still have a major role to play in United’s run-in.

“I still believe in Felix and his commitment at training is really fantastic,” Middendorp added.

The coach pinpointed Wayne Matle as a possible replacement for Obada out wide of United’s midfield, but added that there were many players who could fill the role.

According to Middendorp, there is no temptation to change things structurally ahead of tonight’s match, with United likely to keep to a 4-4-1-1 formation.

“The players are used to this and the changes will be in personnel, not in formation,” he said.

With a top eight finish all but out of sight for United, getting something out of tonight’s match is crucial for the Team of Choice.

Formations aside, the Team of Choice will need to shows far more creativity and attacking intent if they are to leave Rustenberg with three points. With Cuthbert Malajila being preferred to Diyo Sibisi up front in recent weeks, the Zimbabwean will be under pressure to notch up his first goal since moving to Pietermaritzburg from his home country during the PSL’s halfway interval.

With Leopards and Santos involved in a bottom-of-the-table clash in Polokwane tonight, United cannot afford to slip up and will desperately want to put some distance between themselves and those battling it out at the foot of the table.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

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