Having “talked the talk and walked the walk” with a penalty shoot-out win in their Telkom Knockout quarter-final tussle last weekend, Kaizer Chiefs have ample reason to believe they can defeat Orlando Pirates in regulation time when the two Soweto giants clash in an Absa Premiership showdown at FNB Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
ENDING THE WHIPPING BOYS’ STREAK
It’s been five years since Chiefs defeated Pirates in an official tie. When the win-less streak began, there was no dominant team, the two Soweto giants were shadows of themselves as their meetings played out to unprecedented draws.
In the last 18 months, Pirates, however, awoke, winning two and drawing two matches in the last four meetings, albeit Chiefs bagging a penalty shoot-out victory last weekend in the TKO last eight, taking a step closer to ending their four-season trophy drought.
THE MIDDENDORP EFFECT
The reality is that Ernst Middendorp was not everyone’s cup of tea when he re-joined Chiefs 11 months ago. His short-tempered demeanour that has seen him in squabbles with the media, supporters and officials presented him as a figure that only had his own interests at heart, regardless of who gets hurt along the way.
However, this is sweeter, calmer Middendorp, who’s shown affection to those around him - in win or lose.
But most importantly, the new Middendorp has won the trust and loyalty of his players.
It appears the fighting spirit Chiefs showed in the last Soweto Derby will be on display on Saturday, which they'll need to bag their first Derby win in five seasons.
FINISHING THE YEAR ON A HIGH
After the Derby, there will be three Premiership matches before the curtain comes down on the first half of the season.
And the team with the highest points in the 16-table team will be in a jovial mode over the Christmas break as they’ll be comfortably sitting summit of the log standings - a feat that sets a positive tone heading to the last lap of the season.
Chiefs begin their quest to be that team when they lock horns with their arch-rivals, the Sea Robbers. A win from this encounter will prepare them mentally, instilling a belief that they can go head-to-head with any teams they cross paths with.
And that belief would have laid a good foundation heading into their last three matches of the year against the cold and hot Stellenbosch FC, Bloemfontein Celtic and Maritzburg United.
Should they bag victories there, they should guard against complacency, though, thinking they already have what it takes to be crowned champions at the end of May 2020.