It has been a long and strenuous week for Kaizer Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral and his players as they geared up to defend the Vodacom Challenge against Ghana’s Asante Kotoko on Sunday.
The pressure has been so intense that the Chiefs technical team refused the media access to their training on Thursday as the Naturena side made final touches to their tactics.
The Vodacom Challenge title is once again under threat of leaving the SA shores as defending champions Kaizer Chiefs take on Asante, who caused an upset last Saturday by derailing Orlando Pirates in the semifinals.
“We have been training very hard and all we need right now is to win the cup,” said Ertugral, who gave Chiefs their first Vodacom Challenge title against rivals Pirates last year.
Chiefs started their title defence well with a 2-0 victory against Hearts in the semifinals last Saturday but Asante, who beat Pirates 4-2 on penalties, could make it difficult for Chiefs to retain the trophy.
Midfield maestro Thabo “Tsiki Tsiki” Mooki is still out but good news for Amakhosi supporters is that Patrick “Ace” Mbuthu could make a comeback in the final after missing the semifinals with flu.
“He (Mbuthu) looks very good and we will see on Sunday whether to start with him on the starting lineup as it’s going to be a tough and physical game,” said Ertugral. “The new players have also been performing very well at training and I might introduce a few more in the final.”
Former Chiefs striker Siyabonga Nomvete is definitely out after signing for Italian side Udinese. The former national under-23 star has left for Italy to join his new teammates in pre-season training.
Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Brian Baloyi will be available for selection as he returns from national duty in Burkina Faso. Baloyi could however, find it difficult to make it into the starting line-up following an impressive performance by new signing Rowen Fernandez.
Ertugral, however, has no worries in the striking department following the acquisition of another top striker Shaun Permall from Ajax Cape Town.
Meanwhile, Asante will launch an all-out attack as they aim to take the trophy out of SA for the first time.
Coach Ernst Middendorp, who returned to Kumasi last Monday with strikers, Joe Louis and Shilla Alhassan as well as defender Daniel Acquah for their domestic league game against title contenders, Kwaebibirem United in Kumasi yesterday, is expected to fly back to South Africa with the same players to boost the team against Chiefs game.
The battle of the mind games will be on between Ertugral and Middendorp who came across each other for the first time at a coaching clinic in Germany.
Pirates will lock horns with Hearts in a third place play-off in a 12:05 kick-off. Both matches will be staged at Absa Park in Durban.