Coach has confidence in Chiefs spirit
KAIZER Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp (pictured) is confident that from what he saw against Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits his players have the right fighting spirit to take them to the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup.
Amakhosi take on Zesco United at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on Sunday in Ndola in the first leg of the Confederation Cup playoffs. They will host the Zambian champions in the return leg at FNB Stadium on Saturday next week.
The winner will book a place in the group stage of the Confederation Cup, and should Chiefs be victorious, they would reach the group stage of this tournament for the first time.
They would also give South Africa three teams in the group stage of continental competitions in the same year with Orlando Pirates and Sundowns in the Champions League.
Chiefs’ best run in continental football came in 2001 when they won the African Cup Winners’ Cup.
“I have played with Asante Kotoko in the Champions League qualification,” Middendorp said. “I have played with Hearts of Oak from Accra, I took them to the group stage (of the CAF Confederation Cup) and they won it later (without me in 2004).
“I think that the type of players we have, with the right attitude, good behaviour and willingness to do things right makes me confident that absolutely I have the right group of players to go to the group stage with.”
Chiefs have prepared well, having faced the reigning Absa Premiership champions, Sundowns, and the frontrunners for the league this season, Wits. Fringe players got a run in a training match against German side Werder Bremen on Sunday.
Sundowns and Wits tested Chiefs’ resolve. They passed with flying colours against the Clever Boys, beating them 2-0 in their own backyard. They showed tactical maturity against Sundowns, outplaying them before they were let down by a Virgil Vries error to lose 2-1.
“We shouldn’t rush and panic against Zesco,” Middendorp said. “It will be a hectic game too, there’s no doubt about it. We have to keep calm and be cool.
“We have to do the right stuff, recover in a proper way and then start this game with two or three fresh players. (Willard) Katsande will definitely will be in. Dax (Andriamirado Andrianarimanana) can be an option. (Siphelele) Ntshangase is waiting. He had a good game against Werder Bremen on Sunday.
“These are the options that we have. We will try to manage ourselves in a proper way, hopefully we can return with a good result and then manage the second game well to be in the group stage.
“That’s our target.” PITSO Mosimane has already done the maths in terms of what it will take for his Mamelodi Sundowns team to advance to the knockout stage of the CAF Champions League.
Jingles is targeting winning all Sundowns’ home matches and at least drawing two of the three away matches to get 11 points. The first of those away matches is against Nigeria’s Lobi Stars in Enugu tonight at 6pm.
The Nigerian side doesn’t have much pedigree in continental football compared to their opponents who won the Champions League in 2016.
In fact, Stars are the “odd” one out in a group that features Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast who have all won the continent’s premier club competition.
“Lobi Stars, for me is a closed book. OK, we know about Lobi Stars as a team but I don’t remember looking at Lobi Stars as a team playing,” Mosimane said immediately FREE STATE Stars are here to stay in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), according to their new boss, Nikola Kavazovic.
This after Stars managed to get some breathing space, following their away 2-1 victory against Maritzburg United at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.
Katlego Mokhuoane and Sinethemba Jantjie netted for Stars while Deolin Mekoa struck back for the Team of Choice.
The win propelled Stars to position 13 on the log with 16 points after 17 games.
Speaking with the media after the game, Kavazovic oozed confidence that Stars would survive the chop come the end of the season.
“After those two games (against Bidvest Wits and Maritzburg United) I’m pretty sure that we will avoid that (relegation). I think we can even reach top eight with this quality,” Kavazovic continued.
However, Stars have struggled in the league this season after an after the draw. “I don’t see a lot (of) Nigerian football lately now that it’s no longer on our screens … But you know Nigerian teams, they are very physical and are big boys. They’re strong. In fact everyone in our group (is physically strong).”
Between the draw and now, Mosimane would have dug up enough information on the Nigerian side that he probably knows their star player’s blood type, such is the usual thoroughness of his preparation.
Pace and skills
Sundowns counter their opponents’ physical strength with their pace and skills.
Their pint-sized attackers, like Gaston Sirino, use trickery to beat giants who are twice their size. Those attributes will come in handy against the Nigerian side that hasn’t conceded a goal at home in their two Champions League matches.
“We need to look after set-pieces – corner kicks and free-kicks because we usually struggle with height and physique impressive 2017/18 season where their efforts were crowned with them lifting the Nedbank Cup.
“Statistically against Wits we dominated. Against the title winning candidates we had 63 percent ball possession. We had seven shots on target compared to Wits’ three.
“They took three shots and scored two. Today’s game was different. There are games where you can do everything but nothing goes in that space,” Mosimane said. “You don’t want to have to compete physically with such opponents because South African players’ size isn’t the same as north and west Africans teams.
“We have two west African teams that we have to ensure that we beat at home.”
Mosimane’s three-win and two draw equation has also taken into consideration that they might struggle to beat Wydad, which is why he wants to ensure that by the time they visit Casablanca in their last group stage match qualification your way.
“After so much domination, I was under the impression that we could have played three days without scoring a goal.
“But fortunately we succeed,” he added.
Stars are not playing this weekend, and the team has time to regroup and fine tune their skills and game plans. They will face Cape Town City at Cape Town Stadium is already guaranteed.
That means picking at least four points from Stars with the Sundowns’ coach confident that they can collect six points from the Ivorians.
This campaign for the Brazilians is about reclaiming their place as one of the big boys in continental football after their poor showing last season, crashing out of what was an easy group. This one is slightly tougher and will test them.
But as we have seen before, such challenges bring out the best of Mosimane’s men. on Wednesday in an Absa Premiership tussle.
“We are now going to Cape Town without any pressure. We don’t need points over there. If we take points we would have done a great job because they are in a good shape at the moment. We are going there to enjoy our game.
“After Cape Town City, we have two games where we have to finish this story about relegation and focus on reaching top eight,” Kavazovic told the media.
According to Kavazovic Stars will be eyeing as many points as possible in the next few matches.
“I’ve changed a lot of things. I changed good and bad things. Everything is so far giving good results.
“I changed the model of play. I also changed the atmosphere in the team. I changed relations between the coach and the players. I changed the relations between the coach and the management.
“One of the most important things I changed was (the) method of training. I changed it to South Africa’s tactical periodisation,” Kavazovic said.
Gaston Sirino is just one of Mamelodi Sundowns’ small but mobile players who coach Pitso Mosimane hopes will be able to outmanoeuvre their bigger, stronger Nigerian opponents, when Sundowns clash with Lobi Stars in Enugu tonight at 67pm.Picture:
ON THE UP-AND-UP: Nikola Kavazovic, coach of Free State Stars is confident that his team has turned the corner.