After ensuring that they stay in the driving seat at the weekend, leaders Kaizer Chiefs face massive tests on the road this week, which does not please coach Stuart Baxter.
Amakhosi host Ajax Cape Town at Peter Mokaba Stadium tomorrow (7.30pm), but Baxter would have loved for them to play the match in Johannesburg to cut down on the travelling, considering they have a trip to the DRC later this week to face AS Vita in the CAF Champions League.
“The first home game is in Polokwane of course, so that means we are still travelling. Then directly from there on Friday, 48 hours later, we fly to the Congo for our Champions League match and we are back on Monday evening. And 36 hours later we play a (Nedbank) cup game against FC Buffalo,” Baxter said after his side’s 1-0 victory over Orlando Pirates on Saturday kept them six points clear ahead of second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns.
So much travelling means Baxter will have to rotate his squad, and while all eyes will be on him and his technical team to keep the players in tip-top shape, he has urged his troops to play their part by living clean lives to ensure they keep up with the demanding schedule that lies ahead.
“Whether it augurs well or not very much depends on how well we can rotate the squad without creating an imbalance in the team and how well we can recuperate the players, and also how disciplined players are to make sure they train correctly and live correctly to get through the hectic schedule.”
Travelling to Polokwane may been an issue for Baxter, but Chiefs’ record at Peter Mokaba Stadium against Ajax in recent seasons has been impressive, which should give him some reason to be cheerful.
Three years ago Chiefs hammered the Urban Warriors 4-0 and a season later, Amakhosi put a dent in Ajax’s title challenge with a 2-0 victory.
The Cape club went on to lose the league title on the final day after a 1-1 draw against Maritzburg United, handing the title to Pirates.
And last term Chiefs romped to a 3-0 victory at the venue against the side that always seems to struggle up north.
Going into the clash against the Urban Warriors, Chiefs will again have Reyaad Pieterse in goal in the absence of injured captain Itumeleng Khune.
Pieterse conceded twice against Platinum Stars before the Pirates clash and Baxter revealed the young goalkeeper was beating himself up after the loss.
But the ‘keeper bounced back by keeping a clean sheet against the Buccaneers.
“He was beating himself up about their second goal, and maybe he was right because that goal was scored from about three metres out and he could have come out to save it.
“But character for him is not a big issue. He’s a guy with plenty of character.” - The Star