Johannesburg - When the 2014/15 Premier Soccer League season comes to an end in May next year, one fixture local football fans will be glad to see the back of will be Kaizer Chiefs versus Platinum Stars.
Sunday’s Telkom Knockout quarter-final clash between the two will be the fourth meeting in less than three months, following doubled-legged semifinals ties in the MTN8, and a Premiership fixture shortly after.
With a return league fixture scheduled for early December, the pair would have met for an extraordinary fifth time in less than fourth months, with a potential meeting awaiting when the Nedbank Cup dishes out its fixtures early next year.
The pair return to the ground where Chiefs walked away comfortable 2-0 winners on August 16, in the first leg of the MTN8 semifinals.
Eight days later, Amakhosi walloped Stars 3-0 in Rustenburg, before completing a hat-trick of victories just three days later, again in Rustenburg.
Perhaps their best chance yet at getting a win over Chiefs, Allan Freese will be pointing out to his players the fact that Chiefs are, after all, beatable.
The Soweto giants’ momentum was halted this week by lowly Moroka Swallows, who ended Chiefs’ record-setting run of 15 consecutive victories in all competitions, following a 1-1 draw at FNB Stadium on Wednesday.
Swallows scored first, before Reneilwe Letsholonyane equalised in the second half to spare blushes for the team that looked unstoppable just three days earlier.
Surely dropping two points against Swallows would have killed his players’ confidence ahead of Sunday’s Knockout tie with Stars? Not according to Stuart Baxter, who laughed off suggestions from the media that Chiefs’ would be “desperate” to return to winning ways.
“If drawing one game is a blow for their confidence, then maybe they shouldn’t be playing football, maybe they should be working at a bank or something,” Baxter said this week.
“If our players’ confidence is about as brittle as rice paper, then it may well be. But we’ve gone undefeated now in 17 games and 16 of those we’ve won (including the Carling Black Label Cup).
“You can look at it in two ways. You don’t like to drop points but all this talk about records and statistics, maybe that became a bit of a monkey on the players’ backs. Maybe once they’ve got that out of the way now, they can even kick on again.”
Baxter has once again ruled out making wholesale changes to his starting 11.
Despite being a Briton, where the trend in his country of birth is to give a number of squad members and youngsters a run in cup competitions in order to rest senior members of the team, Baxter said he could not afford to field a team sporting a host of new faces.
“We are trying to run out all the games as competitively as possible. It’s not like Manchester United playing in the League Cup against Barnsley and selecting a pure ‘B’ team,” Baxter said.
“They can do that and still be superior. I don’t think we can mess around with our squad too much and hope to beat a team like Platinum Stars.
“We can’t, we’re not that good. We’ve got respect for all of our opponents. So, at the same time as we want to give people playing time, one, they’ve got to earn the shirt and two, they’ve got to be in good form.”