“I think they are under pressure,” says Phala. “Their confidence is a bit dented because we knocked them out of the Nedbank Cup and then they lost to Cape Town City when they were trying to move up the table.
“If we beat them that means we bring them closer to us in terms of the points difference. I believe we are genuinely still in this mini-race for the league title.”
While Chiefs stumbled in the Mother City with the 3-2 defeat on Tuesday night, SuperSport went to Bidvest Wits and returned home with all three points.
Although they remained in fifth place and still nine points behind log leaders City, they cut the deficit between them and the other sides in the top five.
“We are not an easy team to play in Nelspruit,” adds Phala, who is backed by two notable wins - the 6-1 drubbing of Orlando Pirates that forced then coach Muhsin Ertugral to resign on TV, as well as the 2-0 victory over Wits in November last year.
“I think we are more confident than they are as we have managed two consecutive wins having struggled over the last few weeks.”
Chiefs aren’t going to be slouches, and they were in fact unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions until the cup defeat at FNB Stadium last weekend.
Amakhosi also had numerous glorious chances to win against City but their poor finishing let them down.
SuperSport have now won two in two, but it hasn’t been convincing considering they beat Chiefs on penalties and benefited from a horrendous defensive error for Phala to score the winning goal against Wits.
“Our confidence took a knock,” says Phala as he recalls the three successive league defeats to Baroka FC and twice against cross-town rivals Mamelodi Sundowns.
“It was difficult to motivate everyone after losing to Baroka and having two games a week made it difficult to immediately bounce back. We were going for a record (20 games unbeaten in the league) and they spoiled that.
“Then we went to Sundowns and defended badly and lost 5-0, but we showed signs of bouncing back when we lost 1-0 a week later. We probably deserved a point at least. We worked on our defence and it is showing that we are very solid and our finishing is also getting better.”
Chiefs, fourth on the log and four points behind the leaders, were hopeful of seeing goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune return to action against SuperSport after a hip injury ruled him out of the trip to Cape Town midweek.
Bruce Bvuma, 21, deputised for the experienced Khune and had a baptism of fire. Khune’s return would bring calmness at the back while Bvuma, although there was not much he could do about the three goals that went past him on Tuesday, certainly made Chiefs fans a little tense.