Usuthu, who are enjoying an incredibly good run of form that has seen them whittle down their points deficit at the bottom of the table to a mere two from the massive 10 that it was earlier this year, visit a Chiefs side still licking their wounds after their exit from continental competition.
Chiefs – who were knocked out of the Caf Champions League in humiliating fashion after they were beaten 4-0 on aggregate by Moroccan outfit Raja Casablanca – will be keen to avoid further implosion on the domestic front where they have been champions-elect, literally, from the first day of the season.
But with the continental failure following hot on the heels of their defeat in the Nedbank Cup to National First Division outfit Black Leopards, murmurs of a possible meltdown in the league, similar to last season’s, are beginning to become more pronounced.
And with good reason, for Stuart Baxter’s team are nothing like the slick machine that marched into a seemingly unassailable lead to finish last year unbeaten. Lately, they have resembled an outfit very unsure of themselves, and their transition game – that no one seemed to be able to cope with – has deserted them completely.
The finishing power that all-and-sundry had become accustomed to and in which just about everyone in the team was able to find the net, has quickly been replaced by a lack of confidence in the final third, so much so that they’ve become masters at missing scoring opportunities.
All that will have to change if they are to bag maximum points in their final match at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, their alternative home venue, tonight.
For in AmaZulu they face a team that has found their second wind, Steve Barker having finally managed to get the KwaZulu-Natal side to start firing after a long period of failure that had many declaring Usuthu were destined for the drop. Now though, with six matches to go, AmaZulu are breathing down the necks of both Free State Stars and Moroka Swallows as they look to stay up amongst the elite.
And their revival has had a lot to do with that incredibly talented yet often self-destructive star that is Mbulelo Mabizela.
The defender has rekindled the magic which saw him not only lead Orlando Pirates to the title but also captain the national team and play overseas, but also lead a mini-resurrection for AmaZulu. And it is to him they will look to, not only to stop Chiefs but to deliver the winning goals as he has been doing since he joined from Black Aces.
Meanwhile, Baxter is hoping his team lift themselves up quickly as they seek to avoid the disaster that befell them last season when they contrived to lose the championship everybody had them winning to Mamelodi Sundowns.
“We are very disappointed to come away from Casablanca empty-handed but, on the positive side, the performance of the team was very good and we gained valuable experience from the trip. I am confident that if we can maintain our form, we will turn it into valuable points in the league,” he told the club’s website www.kaizerchiefs.com.
And getting those points will mean taking out the pain of their continental humiliation on AmaZulu and thus putting an end to Usuthu’s good run. - The Star
Original source: Chiefs face tricky Usuthu test