Ricky Zililo Senior Sports Reporter—
CHICKEN Inn will take a cautious approach in the first leg of the Caf Champions League preliminary round against red-hot Mamelodi Sundowns at Barbourfields Stadium tomorrow. Coach Joey Antipas yesterday said he is wary of their opponents, who beat Orlando Pirates 2-1 on Wednesday night and in the process stretched their unbeaten run in the league to 15 games.
Sundowns last tasted defeat on September 12 when they went down 1-2 to Golden Arrows and have been unstoppable ever since.
They go into tomorrow’s match having scored 15 goals in their last five outings, something that is troubling Antipas.
“Our opponents are a good side. They’re a house on fire as they have been playing well. They’re consistent and have a good squad. What we need to do is knuckle them down and close their supply lines. We have to play a cautious game because when you play a side as good as Sundowns, you can’t charge like Red Indians,” said Antipas.
Sundowns’ attacking trio of Leonardo Castro, Khama Billiat and Keegan Dolly have been in terrific form and Antipas believes if they can manage to suffocate the visitors’ midfield, which supplies the frontline, which he described as good ball players, then Chicken Inn’s problems will be minimised.
However, Chicken Inn have to also keep a close eye on Teko Modise, Asavela Mbekile, Hlompho Kekana and Mzikayise Mashaba. The four all started against Pirates on Wednesday night, with Modise being withdrawn for Themba Zwane in the second half, while Mashaba made way for right-back Siyanda Zwane.
Castro was pulled out in the 71st minute for Ivorian defender Bangaly Soumahoro to protect their lead.
Botswana international Mogakolodi Ngele, Lebogang Mokoena and Katlego Mashego are some of the midfielders that Sundowns can summon for tomorrow’s encounter.
Thabo Ntethe, Tebogo Langerman and Wayne Arendse will marshal Sundowns’ defence with Ugandan goalkeeper Dennis Onyango starting ahead of Zambian Kennedy Mweene.
Antipas admitted that he was feeling some pressure heading into tomorrow’s encounter and also revealed that midfielder Clemence Matawu, who has just returned from a calf strain, and defender Teenage Hadebe have been ruled out of the game.
Without Matawu, Chicken Inn will turn to either Physwell Madhazi or George Majika, while Hadebe’s absence will hardly be felt as the Gamecocks have Moses Jackson, Lawrence Mhlanga, Guide Goddard and Ben Nyahunzwi all competing for the central defensive roles.
“Matawu and Hadebe are not match fit and are out of the game, but the rest of the guys are all available for selection. In terms of preparations, I think it’s more or less 50-50 because we’re coming from pre-season and we’re not yet fully fit in terms of physical fitness compared to our opponents, hence the need to be cautious,” said Antipas.
On the offensive, Chicken Inn will pin their hopes on Obidiah Tarumbwa, Edmore Chirambadare, Mitchelle Katsvairo and Moses Demera.
“It’s good to play a team like Sundowns because it gives the guys more energy to do well. This is a match where players psyche themselves. I believe mentally the lads are okay,” Antipas said.