Chiefs have a sniff of victory
AFTER their Casablanca conquest last weekend, trail-blazing Kaizer Chiefs, like hunting dogs, have picked the scent of the Caf Champions League victory trail.
And Wydad AC head coach Faouzi Benzarti has sensed that Chiefs have had a good sniff, and has wrapped his charges in cotton wool for their midweek match in Morocco’s domestic league.
Instead, he is sending out a second team to fly the flag for the two-time Champions League winners.
Chiefs will be buoyed by the news that potential match-winner Lebogang Manyama will be fit to face the Moroccan giants on Saturday.
He was nursing a knee injury and failed a fitness test hours before the team flew out to Casablanca last week.
Chiefs interim coach Arthur Zwane has confirmed “Lebo will be ready” for the second leg showdown at FNB Stadium.
Manyama’s prized asset is his pace when the team are in transition mode. It has caused back-pedalling defences problems in trying to contain him, and he does not need much time on the ball in the goalmouth to land a parting shot.
His return to the striker’s role will see him form a twin spearhead with inspirational Serbian Samir Nurkovic, who left the Wydad defence high and dry last week with a cracking goal after a lightning counter-attack by Chiefs.
Nurkovic is showing improved form, although he is nowhere near his best, but he has a high work rate. Last week he dropped back several times to assist in defence.
Zimbabwean Willard Katsande has been excelling in his role as a midfield general.
He will shoulder a huge responsibility on Saturday. He did well to break down a few Wydad attacking sorties in its early stages, and he is fast approaching his best form.
He seems to be bringing out the best in fellow veteran Bernard Parker, who has seemingly upped his game a notch or two after the departure of former coach Gavin Hunt.
Parker and Katsande will be fighting for midfield supremacy on Saturday, and if they succeed, Wydad’s attacking efforts will be hamstrung.
Zwane is likely to settle for seasoned campaigners when deciding on his starting XI, but he cannot easily discard the selection claims of youngsters like Njabulo Blom, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Darrel Matsheke.
All three rookies have played well in midfield, and their roles as defensive midfielders have helped unsettle opponents around the fringes of the penalty area.
Last week the Amakhosi defence showed a marked improvement, especially in the central position, where Eric Mathoho was dominant in the opposition’s aerial attacks.
He also covered well when his fellow defenders were drawn out of position.
He has also shown a penchant for stalking into the attack for deadball plays, and on occasions has been potent in the strike zone.
Chiefs were hoping for more good news on the injury front, but Khama Billiat and Dumisani Zuma have yet to recover fully.
Chiefs hold a 1-0 aggregate advantage going into Saturday’s second leg.