Johannesburg – Despite sitting top of the Premiership standings with a comfortable 10-point lead, Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter says his team are a long way off claiming a second successive league title.
“To say that the 10 point gap means we're sitting pretty, well no... because you're never sitting pretty until the fat lady's singing,” Baxter said ahead of Chiefs' crucial top-of-the-table clash with second-placed SuperSport United on Wednesday.
“We've got a long way to go yet. Anybody who doesn't understand that within our staff or players are deluding themselves.
“We've got a lot of hard work to get through before we start patting ourselves on the back.”
Chiefs have lived up to expectations this season, following their first league trophy in eight years in May last year, and have continued to pile on the points in impressive fashion.
Eight league wins on the trot had helped the Glamour Boys extend their lead at the top and Baxter was confident his troops would reverse their last result against SuperSport when the pair meet for a second time this season.
“At the beginning of the season, we said we wanted to make a good fist of defending our title and that's what the players are doing at the moment,” he said.
“We're just very well aware that SuperSport is a very difficult game, they've beaten us once this season.
“They've been a little bit up-and-down. When they played us, I'm sure they thought: 'well we've just turned over the reigning champions so we must be in good shape'.”
United sealed an emphatic 3-1 win over Amakhosi when they met in Pretoria last year, but since then Matsatsantsa have struggled to string a consistent run of results together.
Defeats to AmaZulu, Moroka Swallows and Platinum Stars have hindered their campaign, allowing Chiefs to capitalise and take charge at the summit.
Baxter played down talks of United wanting to prove a point on Wednesday by beating the defending champions, pointing to their last eight outings where they have managed victories against motivated opponents.
“The last five or six games, do you think any of the other teams weren't thinking exactly the same?
“All-in-all, you'd be a fool to envisage anything else than a tight game with a lot of cut-and-thrust. I'm sure their confidence will be running quite high, so it's going to be a tough game.
“We'll very much take this one game at a time and make sure that we focus on the here and now.”
A win for SuperSport could close the gap to seven points, but more importantly, would keep them above third-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who are also in action Ä against bottom-of-the-log Golden Arrows Ä on Wednesday.
Trailing Chiefs by 11 points and United by one, Sundowns will hope for an Amakhosi victory, while beating Arrows, which would take Downs back up to second, above fierce neighbours SuperSport.
Meanwhile, Baxter poured cold water on new signing Katlego Mphela's hopes of a first start for his new club, by conceding that the former Sundowns attacker would have to regain his fitness before being in contention for a spot in the team.
“Katlego's got to come in first, I've got to monitor his fitness levels, then we've got to give him a clear picture of the way we play,” Baxter said of the Bafana Bafana international.
“I've got some ideas of when we would use him and when we wouldn't. I've got some ideas of who he would be best suited to, but I've got to get a look at him first and maybe he will show me that there are other options.”
Premiership fixtures: Wednesday: Kaizer Chiefs v SuperSport United (Peter Mokaba Stadium), Mamelodi Sundowns v Golden Arrows (Loftus Versfeld), University of Pretoria v Maritzburg United (Tuks Stadium). – Sapa