“The next game is important and we need to concentrate on that as quick as possible”
Kaizer Chiefs’ shot at redemption lies in winning the Absa Premiership title, but coach Ernst Middendorp is not overwhelmed by the pressure of having to consolidate their No 1 spot by defeating rivals Orlando Pirates on Saturday.
The league race is a marathon – as Chiefs have 10 matches to hang on to the No 1 spot – but there was room for Amakhosi to end their four-year trophy drought, make a quick buck and seal a spot in the CAF Confederation Cup next season by winning the Nedbank Cup.
Ernst Middendorp’s men, however, unceremoniously crashed out of the South African premier cup knockout competition in the last 16 after a 5-4 penalty shoot-out loss to Highlands Park on Saturday after the two teams had played to a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.
But not all is lost.
The Glamour Boys will now put all their eggs in one basket and challenge for the league, where they might scoop the bragging rights and seal a spot in the CAF Champions League next season.
Chiefs’ next assignment, however, could very well make or break their league campaign as they’ll be away to sworn enemies and fellow title contenders Pirates in the Soweto Derby on Saturday (3pm kick-off) at FNB Stadium.
“The next game is important and we need to concentrate on that as quick as possible,” said Middendorp after the loss in Tembisa.
“I don’t know (whether the Soweto Derby is the perfect timing to bounce back). I’m not of that concept but we know that on Saturday, it will be a game where they’ll be huge attendance and results that will be at stake.”
Chiefs head into the much-anticipated last derby of the season low on morale after Saturday’s defeat, especially coming up against a well-rested Pirates team which haven’t played competitive football for over a week and have won their last six league matches.
But if this season is anything to go by, then expect the Naturena-based side to have ample plans up their sleeves. Chiefs, afterall, have won all their league and cup matches against Pirates this season.
This encounter will also pit two German coaches that are in different stages of their PSL careers.
Middendorp is hoping to become the first mentor to guide Amakhosi back to the pinnacle of South African football after a four-year absence, while Josef Zinnbauer will be looking to steer the Sea Robbers ship high up on the league standings after rescuing the team from the bottom half of the log in December.
Zinnbauer has instilled an offensive approach at Pirates, something that has helped striker Gabadinho Mhango to top the league charts with 14 goals in 19 matches.
Chiefs, meanwhile, have a goalkeeping conundrum that still needs to be settled.