DURBAN - After they kicked off the year with a win on the road, Maritzburg United are bolstered by the return of several players to form and fitness ahead of Friday night's visit of Bloemfontein Celtic.
A 2-1 come-from-behind triumph over Ajax Cape Town last week gave Maritzburg a league double over the Cape side.
However it was after their first round success over Ajax that the Midlands outfit endured an 11-game winless run in all competitions.
Maritzburg coach Fadlu Davids warned his men not to read too much into the Ajax victory.
“I don’t think Ajax had been dominated like that from start to finish before. We are in the right direction, but we have to remain focused and calm, and not make the same mistake like in the first round,” said Davids.
He further reminded his charges of their loss to Celtic during that barren period in the first half of the campaign.
“Celtic should have beaten us 6-0 in the last game, when we only lost 1-0.
"So it’s definitely going to be tough; they are a fantastic team. They are busy in the market, so it’s going to be very tough.”
The visitors are sixth in the standings, two points ahead of ninth-placed Maritzburg. They recently acquired attacker Menzi Masuku from Chippa United, and defender Lorenzo Gordinho from Kaizer Chiefs in a deal that saw midfielder Kabelo Mahlasela go the other way.
Maritzburg traded defender Denis Weidlich to Bidvest Wits for left-back Bokang Tlhone, who could make his debut at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday night (kick-off 8pm).
Despite limited transfer business so far, Davids is upbeat about the availability of Australian midfielder Liam Youlley and Belgian forward Andrea Fileccia.
“Liam is finally over his injury worries,” said Davids of the Australian junior international with South African roots.
“At the end of December he played a couple of Diski games, and the medical team is building up his match fitness after the knee ligament injury early in the season. Hopefully he can be like a new signing for us.
“Andrea has been injury free for six months. He’s been building up his fitness and looks to be back to his best. He looks sharp and ready to be one of our main strikers,” Davids added.
Meanwhile, AmaZulu go into Sunday’s match at Baroka FC looking to break a six-game winless run whilst putting out fires over the future of veteran forwards Mabhuti Khenyeza and Siyabonga Nomvethe.
A week after shooting down reports that Nomvethe had instigated supporters against coach Cavin Johnson over his lack of game time, Usuthu rebutted an online story about Khenyeza having signed a pre-contract agreement to join former club Golden Arrows next season.
“We have spoken to him. He confirmed that he has not signed any pre-contract with anyone,” said AmaZulu team manager Qedi Dlamini.
“For us what we want to stress and warn our supporters about, is that at this time of the season there would be people looking to try and stop the progress of the club by inventing rumours out of thin air,” an upbeat Dlamini added.
The 35-year-old striker told the club’s website: “I am still contracted with the team. I will not deal with issues from behind, I’ll come straight and tell the team about my career.”
Arrows host Supersport United in KwaMashu on Sunday.