Home Sport Soccer Confederation Cup offers Kaizer Chiefs opportunity at redemption

Confederation Cup offers Kaizer Chiefs opportunity at redemption

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“They must continue to believe in Kaizer Chiefs. I’m sure that in future Chiefs will not disappoint. We have our plan to reinforce the team to make Kaizer Chiefs stronger.”

STICK TOGETHER: George Maluleka of Kaizer Chiefs says his team has their work cut out for them tonight. Picture: Samuel Shivambu BackpagePix

After already having passed up on two chances this season to win some elusive silverware, the CAF Confederation Cup might just be the platform for Kaizer Chiefs to restore some lost pride.

Chiefs get their Confederation Cup campaign under way tonight at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium against Zanzibar outfit Zimamoto, with the return leg scheduled for Tuesday December 4.

The Glamour Boys went three seasons without winning a trophy under previous coach Steve Komphela, and have not really shown a great deal of improvement under Giovanni Solinas this term, despite the high profile signings of Khama Billiat and Lebogang Manyama; not to mention a handful of other new players.

After being bundled out of the MTN8 at the first round stage by SuperSport United back in August, Chiefs relinquished another chance to win a trophy when they were beaten 2-1 by Orlando Pirates in a Telkom Knockout semi-final match last weekend.

It was a second successive defeat in a month to their bitter rivals, and the clear difference in performance levels between the Soweto rivals right now will be a bitter pill for Chiefs fans to swallow.

There is still the Nedbank Cup after the Christmas break, and although Amakhosi are not out of the running for the league, they appear to be lagging behind other potential champions such as Pirates, Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns, with SuperSport United also likely in the mix.

While it can hardly be said Chiefs have had a bad start to the season, something still appears amiss and they look like they need a bit of a jump-start to get going.

A strong run in the Confederation Cup, which is usually devoid of Africa’s biggest clubs (who take part in the Champions League), could therefore offer Solinas and his men the chance to restore their somewhat flagging confidence.

On paper, South Africa’s best-supported club should not have too many issues navigating through the preliminary and first rounds, although with that said, many Premiership clubs have learnt the hard way not to underestimate some of the less illustrious African teams.

Zimamoto won the Zanzibar league in 2016, with their only appearance in continental competition resulting in elimination at the preliminary phase of the 2017 Champions League.

A team of Amakhosi’s resources should surely be beating this kind of opposition, and if they do, they’ll face either Equatorial Guinea side Deportivo Unidad or Madagascar’s ASM Elgeco Plus in the First Round proper, in what should again be a straightforward encounter.

After that, it could become a lot more tricky as the 16 remaining teams in the Confederation Cup will be drawn against the 16 teams which lost in the first round of the Champions League, although even then it’s unlikely they’ll be drawn against any of the really big African guns.

For now though, the focus is on the match in Port Elizabeth, where the Chiefs camp must pull together in the face of growing criticism from their supporters.

“We have to stick together,” said midfielder George Maluleka. “We want to do well in Africa. It will be a step up for us. It’s important for the club to succeed in Africa. Kaizer Chiefs are one of the biggest clubs in Africa and that comes with responsibilities.”

Solinas, meanwhile, has pleaded with the fans to stay on board, while also talking about beefing up his squad in the January transfer window. It’s notable that Gustavo Paez, Bhongolwethu Jayiya, Kgotso Moleko and the injured Joseph Molangoane have not been included in Amakhosi’s CAF squad.

“I believe we can change this situation,” said Solinas. “We also have our plan for the market. I want to tell our supporters not to abandon the club.

“They must continue to believe in Kaizer Chiefs. I’m sure that in future Chiefs will not disappoint. We have our plan to reinforce the team to make Kaizer Chiefs stronger.”

Also in CAF Confederation Cup action today are Free State Stars, who host Rwanda outfit Mukura Victory Sports at the Bidvest Stadium in Johannesburg, in a 3pm start.

The Premiership’s two CAF Champions League representatives, Pirates and Sundowns, also play today: Bucs host Seychelles side Light Stars, while Masandawana will clash with Leones Vegetarianos in Equatorial Guinea.

Kaizer Chiefs CAF squad:

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Virgil Vries, Bruce Bvuma

Defenders: Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Siyabonga Ngezana, Erick Mathoho, Daniel Cardoso, Teenage Hadebe, Mario Booysen, Godfrey Walusimbi, Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya

Midfielders: Dumsani Zuma, Willard Katsande, George Maluleka, Siphelele Ntshangase, Dax Andrianarimanana, Hendrick Ekstein, Lebogang Manyama, Kabelo Mahlasela, Philani Zulu, Khama Billiat

Strikers: Leonardo Castro, Bernard Parker, Ryan Moon.