Who will be chief tonight?

2012-10-26 00:00

HARRY Gwala stadium might not be sold out again this season, but tonight it will be filled to capacity as it accommodates 10 000 people who have purchased tickets to watch Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs take on Maritzburg United in a PSL clash.

In what is indicative of United’s impressive performance so far this season, tonight’s will be a top-of-the-table clash and coach Ernst Middendorp’s men will move to within just two points off Chiefs at the top of the table if they can secure an unlikely win.

But, while the chances of a victory may seem unlikely on paper, United have already beaten Mamelodi Sundowns this season and can also boast beating Chiefs in the same fixture last season, though that was played in PE.

There is certainly enough to suggest that the clash will be tight with the possibility of going either way, and the coach needs no convincing.

“As a team we need to be at 100% on every level and in all departments if we want to have a chance,” Middendorp told The Witness yesterday.

“It doesn’t matter who we play against, if we can do that then I am confident that we can get the result.”

The coach added that he has been extremely impressed by his small squad this year, who have remained focused on every task at hand regardless of their opposition.

“Historically Maritzburg has been a team that had no problem performing in big games like this, but struggled against the ‘smaller’ sides,” said Middendorp. “But the mentality this year has been good amongst the players and they know that if they do not perform they can lose to any team.”

United will be without former Chiefs man Mthokozisi Yende (suspended) and the news yesterday was that pacey Dutchman Orlando Smeekes has been ruled out with a thigh strain he picked up in Saturday’s Telkom Knockout victory over Moroka Swallows.

It is hard to see Middendorp tinkering too much from the side that beat Swallows, but he acknowledged that he hadn’t finalised his starting lineup yet.

“There are always these little decisions that you keep thinking about to yourself and with your technical team,” he said. “We will wait until tomorrow [today] before making any decisions. There are some players who have had good weeks in training and others who you still need to worry about. There is a lot to consider.”

Chiefs, who arrived in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday and based themselves in Umhlanga, have a long list of injuries, but their squad is one of depth and they will still be able to field a formidable lineup with abundant attacking flair. Jimmy Jambo’s horror injury against Wits last weekend sees him join Jimmy Tau, Siboniso Gaxa, Morgan Gould and Sakhile Hlongwa on the casualty list.

But the main threat in coach Stuart Baxter’s lineup will surely be the league’s leading goal scorer Bernard Parker, who has been rejuvenated under Baxter this season.

“All players need time to settle in the PSL, this is normal,” Middendorp said of Parker’s disappointing run under coach Vladimir Vermezovic last season. “Baxter has done very well, but I think it is unfair to say that he has been responsible for turning Parker around.”

Those with tickets should start getting to the ground early to avoid congestion, while those without will have to catch the 8 pm kick-off on SuperSport Four.

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