Black Leopards coach Joel Masutha and Kaizer Chiefs counterpart Giovanni Solinas wish each other well ahead of their Telkom Knockout clash this afternoon. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Giovanni Solinas’ desire to see Kaizer Chiefs lift the Telkom Knockout trophy this season has more of a personal story behind it.

“When I was at Free State Stars, we reached the semi-finals of this competition (in 2016) and lost to Cape Town City,” the Italian-born mentor recalls.

It’s that bit of information, as well as the fact that his current club has experienced a three-year silverware drought, that drives Solinas.

The first hurdle for Amakhosi is a struggling Black Leopards outfit in the opening round this afternoon at FNB Stadium (3.30pm kickoff).

“I hope to improve the achievement of getting to the semi-finals before. I know the opposition will be strong on the day, but Chiefs compete to win the trophy,” Solinas said.

Amakhosi had hit a bit of a slump in the last few weeks, putting the coach under a little bit of pressure when he thought he’d found his feet at the club.

Following three successive league victories, Chiefs were held to a goalless draw by Highlands Park and beaten 1-0 by Polokwane City in their two games before the most recent Fifa break.

But Solinas had vowed to yet again work on putting his footprint on the team during that two-week recess.

“I now understand what it means to be part of this club. When you move around in the village (club headquarters in Naturena), you understand immediately what it means, the expectations to win everything,” he said.

“We are going to compete in everything, the Telkom Knockout, in Africa (Caf Confederation Cup), the league and the Nedbank Cup.

“We are fighting to win the trophies because at Chiefs, there’s no other option. This is the best we can do.”

Amakhosi have already missed out on one piece of silverware this season in the MTN8, having been eliminated by SuperSport United over two legs in the semi-finals.

To beat Leopards, however, Solinas will have to do it without two important players in forwards Lebogang Manyama and Leonardo Castro.

Manyama was involved in a horror car accident involving three other vehicles, coming out of it with a fractured elbow, but his car wrecked beyond repair early last week.

Castro suffered an ankle injury in the 4-1 win over Cape Town City in the league last month, and missed the club’s previous four matches.

Castro could be back in time for the Soweto Derby against Orlando Pirates next Saturday, while Solinas said he was uncertain about when Manyama would play again.

* At the same time today (3.30pm), Polokwane City host SuperSport United in the Telkom Knockout.

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