Ted Dumitru has backed Stuart Baxter to repeat his own achievement of back-to-back Absa Premiership titles with Kaizer Chiefs, and believes Amakhosi will not lose to Mamelodi Sundowns in this evening’s crunch clash at the top of the table.
Dumitru won successive league crowns at the helm of both Sundowns and Chiefs, with the Brazilians between 1997 and 1999, and with Amakhosi between 2003 and 2005.
Chiefs did not win another league title until Baxter joined last season, and victory over Sundowns tonight will put them six points clear of the Brazilians, with a game in hand, and well on the way to another crown.
“Chiefs are very consistent, I think they are very close to achieving what they wanted for the season,” said Dumitru yesterday.
“I think they got a very strong wake-up call with what happened with the club from the Congo (Chiefs were knocked out of the Champions League by AS Vita last weekend) and that will make everyone very serious and committed. On paper, I think Chiefs have the edge (over Sundowns).
“Sundowns are coming from a long period of inconsistency and have finally managed to get some fundamentals right, they do have the potential to beat any team in the PSL on a particular day … (but) I would say the worst that can happen (for Chiefs) would be a draw.”
Dumitru views Baxter’s Chiefs as a solid defensive unit, with a potent counter attack, and he believes this system of play is ideally suited to the current South African game.
“I have said this (that Chiefs will win the title) for two seasons and I am not going to change it now. The moment you send a message to everyone that you have the best, most experienced defenders, and you build a counter-attacking game you are going to fly in the PSL,” he said.
“The PSL is not a league that can deal with those challenges, a lot of teams are very naïve, they don’t have the quality of players to respond to the challenge.
“From the day I read what kind of transfers Baxter benefited from, I immediately said that this team would be difficult to beat in the PSL, because there is a lack of creativity, because a lot of players don’t have the ability to beat experienced defenders.”
As might be expected, Dumitru believes the quality of sides were better when he won his last title in 2005, and sees tactical differences between his and Baxter’s set up.
“We used to control the midfield more than the defence,” said Dumitru.
“We absorbed the marking pressure in the midfield, our leader was Tinashe Nengomasha … he was doing that in that department, supported by all the other players. Chiefs are trapped to be pressurised in the defensive zone, where they have so much experience and quality.
“One big advantage for Chiefs compared to 2004/5 is that the quality of opposition is not as good … the reply from other teams is very weak. That is a clear indication of how good the league is. Only Sundowns in the whole bunch can pose a problem.”
As for Sundowns, Dumitru has been impressed by the impact made by the returning Lebohang Mokoena, but believes the Brazilians’ new-found consistency might have come a little too tardily.
“In terms of the quality in their squad in general, Sundowns are ahead of Chiefs. It’s not only financial, with the individual quality of their players, they have the upper hand, and Mokoena is one of them. Since he came back, he has made a difference, they have a more dynamic approach to midifeld and attack. That is a plus but it comes a bit too late, they didn’t have any consistency before he came back.”
Dumitru also believes coach Pitso Mosimane made an error in talking about rebuilding the side when he came in as coach in December 2012.
“It is not a criticism but I think he made a mistake saying he was rebuilding the team. When you spend R40-million or something on a squad you can’t say you are rebuilding. You can say that if you are a club that doesn’t have resources. Sundowns fans want instant success. You cannot tell people you are building when you have amazing talent. But what he has managed to do is create a bit of consistency in his last six or seven games and if that can continue he could prove his point. (But) any defeat now is going to send him back again, and people will say that for all his plans, he can’t build a team. For him (today) is a huge challenge. He works very hard, he makes mistakes because he is not a highly experienced coach, but he has the drive to work hard and get better.”
AT A GLANCE
Chiefs recorded a third successive league win with a 2-0 victory at home to Golden Arrows in midweek
The Soweto side are unbeaten at home, with nine wins and two draws from 11 matches as hosts
Their next three league opponents are Mpumalanga Black Aces (home), Polokwane City (away) and Free State Stars (home)
The Amakhosi are top of the Absa Premiership log with 52 points from 23 matches
Sundowns racked up a fifth successive league win when they defeated University of Pretoria 2-1 at home in midweek
The Tshwane side have claimed 23 points from their 12 away matches so far this season
Their next three league opponents are Bloemfontein Celtic, Mpumalanga Black Aces (both home) and Moroka Swallows (away)
The Brazilians are second on the Premiership log with 49 points from 24 matches
In head-to-head meetings, Chiefs and Sundowns have met in 57 league matches since 1985. Amakhosi have 24 wins compared to 17 for the Brazilians, while 16 matches have been drawn
Chiefs have won 16 of their 28 home matches against Downs, suffering four defeats in the process
When the teams met earlier this season in Tshwane, Amakhosi claimed a 1-0 away win thanks to an own-goal from Arendse
Chiefs’ line-up v Arrows: Khuzwayo, Gaxa, Mathoho, Mashamaite, Masilela, Maluleka, Katsande, Nkosi (Lebese 46), Tshabalala, Parker (Mphela 78), Nkhatha (Rusike 85)
Sundowns’ line-up v Tuks: Mweene, Mashaba, Schut, Nthethe, Mphahlele, Kekana, Modise, Wome (Zungu 58), Mokoena, Moriri (Sumaila 75), Laffor (Malajila 90)
Last 10 league meetings
2008/09 Chiefs 1-0 Sundowns, Nale
2009/10 Sundowns 2-2 Chiefs, Mphela 2 (1 pen); Musona, Tshabalala
2009/10 Chiefs 1-2 Sundowns, Dladla (pen); Mphela, Xulu
2010/11 Chiefs 1-0 Sundowns, Motaung jr
2010/11 Sundowns 2-0 Chiefs, Mushekwi, Pelembe
2011/12 Sundowns 0-1 Chiefs, Sweswe
2011/12 Chiefs 2-0 Sundowns, Ngcobo, Tshabalala
2012/13 Chiefs 2-1 Sundowns, Nkosi, Nkhatha; Daniels
2012/13 Sundowns 0-0 Chiefs
2013/14 Sundowns 0-1 Chiefs, Arendse (og)
(League only, since 1985)
P W D L GF GA
Chiefs 28 16 8 4 44 19
Downs 29 13 8 8 31 23
Chiefs 29 8 8 13 23 31
Downs 28 4 8 16 19 44
Chiefs 57 24 16 17 67 50
Downs 57 17 16 24 50 67
Remaining 2013/14 fixtures
05/04/14 H Mamelodi Sundowns
09/04/14 H Mpumalanga Black Aces
16/04/14 A Polokwane City
19/04/14 H Free State Stars
23/04/14 A Bidvest Wits
26/04/14 A University of Pretoria
10/05/14 H AmaZulu
05/04/14 A Kaizer Chiefs
09/04/14 H Bloemfontein Celtic
16/04/14 H Mpumalanga Black Aces
19/04/14 A Moroka Swallows
26/04/14 H SuperSport United
10/05/14 A Maritzburg United Backpage Media