Maritzburg and Middendorp eye Chiefs scalp

Maritzburg United will chase the scalp of Kaizer Chiefs when the two teams meet in a 2021/22 DStv Premiership clash at Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday.

Kick-off is at 5:30pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).

Maritzburg have managed just one win from their last six league outings and were most recently held 0-0 away to Chippa United on 7 November.

The Team of Choice has claimed seven points from four home matches this season, with their last result as hosts a 1-0 win over TS Galaxy in October.

“Definitely a game with a lot of duels. A lot of long balls. We changed it in the second half and came out well. We had some moments to win it. This is certainly a point gained,” said Maritzburg head coach, Ernst Middendorp, following his side’s draw at Chippa.

Chiefs returned to winning form in the league when they defeated Soweto derby rivals Orlando Pirates 2-1 at home on November 6, with a brace of goals from Keagan Dolly.

The Amakhosi have claimed six points from five away matches this season, with their last result on the road a 2-1 win at SuperSport United in late October.

Chiefs head coach Stuart Baxter believes it is too early to declare league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns Premiership winners-in-waiting and has challenged his team to continue their rise up the standings.

“Not at all, not at all. If you put that to them [Sundowns] now… they’d probably laugh at you. We have to knock them off their perch,” Baxter insisted.

“I think what we find in the league is that even though new teams, let’s say new names appear [in the title race] it doesn’t mean that’s a small team. We’re a new team.

“There are still some other good teams who’re competitive, hence it won’t be easy to say they [Sundowns] are already gone with it,” Baxter added.

In head-to-head stats, Maritzburg and Chiefs have met in 30 league matches since the 2005/06 season. The Amakhosi have claimed 13 wins compared to seven for the Team of Choice, while 10 matches have been drawn. The KwaZulu-Natal side has recorded three wins, eight draws and four defeats in 15 home matches in the rivalry.

Maritzburg took four points off Chiefs in the teams’ league meetings last season, winning 2-0 at FNB Stadium in January 2021, thanks to a brace from Judas Moseamedi, followed by a 1-1 home draw in Pietermaritzburg in March 2021, with goals from Thabiso Kutumela and Lebogang Manyama.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Maritzburg United

Marcel Engelhardt: The towering Maritzburg goalkeeper will have an important role to play against a Chiefs side that boast quality in attack. The Team of Choice have been solid in defence this season and will need to be on top of their game if they are to keep a sixth clean sheet of the season.

Bongokuhle Hlongwane: Maritzburg have pinned their hopes on the young forward who has already showcased his quality at national level. That said, Hlongwane has yet to find the back of the net in the league this season and will be eager to break his 2021/22 duck against the best supported team in the country.

Kaizer Chiefs

Keagan Dolly: The Bafana Bafana winger has been in superb form on his return to South Africa and has directly contributed to eight goals in 10 league matches (five goals and three assists). Baxter will be hoping that he can build on that form as Chiefs aim to break into the top five on the Premiership standings.

Njabulo Ngcobo: Last season’s Defender of the Season has been used in a deep-lying midfield role by Chiefs in recent weeks. While the decision has drawn some criticism, Baxter feels that the talented, and clearly versatile centre-back, has all the ball-playing qualities to flourish in the middle of the park.


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