Kaizer Chiefs looking to cash in Ernst Middendorp at FNB
JOHANBESBURG - A double dose of delight could be on the cards for Kaizer Chiefs should they dare open the New Year with a win over Maritzburg United in the DStv Premiership at FNB Stadium this afternoon.
Chiefs have endured an underwhelming start in the league this season, winning one match, losing four and drawing three. Much of their misfortunes have been pinned on the club’s season-long transfer ban by the governing body, Fifa.
But in hindsight it could be that they are still haunted by losing the Premiership title to Mamelodi Sundowns on the last day of the season. But it should comfort Amakhosi supporters that the Glamour Boys will meet the "supposed perpetrator" behind that blunder, today, Ernst Middendorp.
The latter is currently holding the reins at Maritzburg, having returned for his third stint to the club late last year. So far, the German has blown hot and cold in his first three matches, winning one – recently against Bloemfontein Celtic - drawing one and losing one.
Sure, Chiefs will be out to prove to their former mentor that they are nigh to healing from last season’s misfortunes and finding their feet under coach Gavin Hunt, especially after qualifying for the group stage of the CAF Champions League this week.
But the German will be hellbent on annihilating that, proving that it was a mistake for the club to sack him as he could have built on from last term’s runners-up finish.
It is, however, tomorrow afternoon (3:30pm kick-off) at the Orlando Stadium where the main attraction will be served. Orlando Pirates welcome neighbours Swallows FC with their backs against the wall. The former started their New Year on a sour note, surrendering their undefeated record to log leaders and champions Mamelodi Sundowns, albeit remaining fifth on the standings.
But they received a boost midweek, automatically progressing to the play-offs in the Confederation Cup after Angolan-based side Sagrada Esperanca pulled out of the second leg due to the country’s rising number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus.
Swallows, though, are on Cloud Nine. Unlike the Buccaneers, the Birds opened their year with a banger, extending their undefeated run to nine matches this season as they went level with Sundowns on 21 points, thanks to six wins and three draws.
The Original Soweto derby might be the focal point of the weekend but Sundowns will be out to extend their lead at the summit of the Premiership standings when they visit Polokwane-based side Baroka FC at Peter Mokaba Stadium this afternoon (3pm kickoff).
Known to be slow starters due to juggling between continental and domestic football, the Brazilians have surprisingly hit the high notes early this season. They are undefeated in the first nine league matches after winning six and drawing three.
Much of the credit should go to the “three wise men” – co-coaches Rhulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mngqithi and senior coach Steve Komphela – who have taken the challenge head on, following the departure of Pitso Mosimane.
Despite having recently defeated Jwaneng Galaxy 5-1 on aggregate to progress to the group stage of Champions League, Sundowns will know that their job is cut out for them against the rejuvenated Baroka side that has won three matches, drawn three and lost three this season.
Fourth-placed Cape Town City will be hoping to return to winning ways when they visit Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at the Thohoyandou Stadium this evening (5pm kick-off). The Citizens lost 3-2 to the high-flying Swallows in their last outing away from home.
Tshakhuma are also in need of redemption of their own if they are also going to turn their season around. They are in the bottom half of the standings after one win, five losses and two draws in their maiden top-flight campaign.