“It is very difficult to make a clear assessment in this scenario we find ourselves in,” says coach Ernest Middendorp after taking his troops through the final preparations, ahead of Amakhosi’s resumption of the 2019/20 season of the Absa Premiership. “This is not the time to reflect on the season, but time to look at the work we have put in the past six weeks since returning to training.”
Amakhosi enter the Biologically Safe Environment matches leading the log standings with eight matches to go to the end of the season. The quest to the league honours resumes this evening against the 6th placed Bidvest Wits, kicking off at 18:00 at Orlando Stadium.
“We restart under this new world where everybody has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Middendorp. “We had to work on the external elements such as the uncertainty that reigned before the announcement that we will resume with the matches. Added to that, we did not have any practice games to test our readiness in match situations. But we are good and ready to compete against Wits tonight.”
Amakhosi will be minus one of the players that formed part of the regulars in the line-up this season, George Maluleka, who left Naturena to join rivals and league contenders Mamelodi Sundowns at the end of June. “We had to find the solution in the midfield, and I think we worked on that since the restart. We have found good options to cover that area in the midfield. I am glad that upfront and at the back we have a consistent pairing going into the restart,” says Middendorp.
“Some of the players would have benefited from the rest. Other players like Anthony Akumu Agay, who arrived at the height of the back to back games before the lockdown now had six weeks to gel in. Njabulo Blom had a chance to recover from injuries as well. All the players are now ready and just looking forward to get a run on the pitch starting tonight.”
The game also has significance for Middendorp as it will be the 91st time that he leads Chiefs as coach in a league game; thus seeing him overtake Stuart Baxter. He will become the coach who has led Chiefs in the second most number of league games in the PSL era behind record holder Muhsin Ertugral, who has previously been in charge of 161 league games for Chiefs.
“We must not put ourselves under pressure, concludes Middendorp. “We must just do our best and enjoy the game against Wits. They are a good side and will certainly want to cause an upset. We are not going to put ourselves under pressure because that can cause a problem. It is great feeling to get back to playing and we are looking forward to it.”