Trailblazing Kaizer Chiefs wishing on a star ahead of Champions League showdown against Wydad
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CAPE TOWN - Kaizer Chiefs could aggrandise their standing in the ‘Big Three’ by adding a Champions League star to their badge, as long-time rivals Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns have done.
Pirates won in 1995, and Sundowns followed 21 years later in 2016 and now proudly display the coveted star on all their merchandise. Hence, Chiefs are the only club in South Africa’s ‘Big Three’ who have not yet annexed African football’s most prized award.
Ever since Chiefs’ winning momentum started picking up in the group phase, they have nurtured a burning desire to join Pirates and Sundowns on the list of South Africa’s Champions League winners. It will be the driving force in their quest to defeat Wydad Casablanca in Saturday’s semi-final second leg at the FNB Stadium.
In the run-up to the match, Chiefs owner and founder Kaizer Motaung has reminded the players that the club has won many trophies over the years but not the Champions League. However, interim coach Arthur Zwane has told the players that Motaung cherished the hope that the present squad will ensure the CAF Champions League trophy will soon count amongst the club’s silverware.
At this time, there is so much going for Chiefs. The team’s form at home in the Championship League has been superb, and they have yet to concede a goal after three matches. They also defeated Wydad 1-0 in the group stage in Johannesburg. They ended the match with only nine players after Daniel Akpeyi and Samir Nurkovic were red-carded. Nurkovic’s sending off was particularly cynical.
Admittedly, Wydad did not send their strongest team then because they had already advanced to the knockout stages. They also arrived without their coach Faouzi Benzarti out of fear of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Chiefs will draw inspiration from that match since they were superior on the day.
The arrival of the seasoned journeyman Stuart Baxter has come at a good time. After his recent appointment, he said the upcoming Championship League semi-finals were the first order of business. On Saturday night he had stamped his footprint on the game, which Chiefs won despite a meagre 20% share of the possession.
With this possession, Chiefs did not play much. They had to settle for a defensive role most of the evening. The players’ mood seemed to have picked up since Gavin
Hunt’s departure. It has contributed significantly to a newfound commitment which is so vital when defending for sustained periods.
Last week Baxter sat in the stands, and this will be the case again this week because he is still awaiting his work permit. He has said the team would employ different tactics tomorrow.
At the end of last week’s match, many Wydad players seemed troubled and gestured as if they were unhappy about something, as they walked off the pitch following the 1-0 defeat.
Wydad, the 2017 champions, arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday and will have a few days to acclimatise. They have a fully fit squad after most of their first-choice players were rested for a domestic match on Tuesday.
Yesterday, a report in Morocco said Wydad’s president Said Naciri, the Moroccan actor, comedian and producer, has promised the players a massive bonus for a win tomorrow.