Carling Knockout Cup Preview – Kaizer Chiefs target Usuthu scalp

Attention shifts from league action to the newly-formed Carling Knockout Cup this weekend with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.

While TS Galaxy have already secured their place following a penalty shootout win over Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates take on Cape Town Spurs on Friday night.

The rest of the games see some interesting match-ups, with the pick of the bunch being a home tie for under-fire Kaizer Chiefs against AmaZulu.

Amakhosi boss Molefi Ntseki has faced the wrath of the club’s fans following some poor results this season, while they exited the MTN8 with a spirited 3-2 aggregate semi-final defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns.

Usuthu have so far struggled under new boss Franco Pablo Martin, with just two wins from their opening eight DStv Premiership matches, but have only lost twice – including 3-0 to Chiefs – alongside four draws.

Ahead of the game, Ntseki said on Times Live: “Now it’s a time for us to turn the corner.

“We understand it comes with hard work and proper preparation going into this match. At the same time we give respect to our opponent, though there’s only one team that can win on Saturday.”

SuperSport United, meanwhile, hosts Polokwane City in their first round clash at the TUT Stadium.

Matsatsantsa suffered a MTN8 quarter-final exit but have since progressed to the group stages in the CAF Confederation Cup, alongside sitting in third place in the league with five wins.

Rise and Shine though have been impressive in their first season back in the top-flight, with four wins from nine to occupy fifth place, just two points adrift of their opponents this weekend.

SuperSport boss Gavin Hunt has played down his excitement ahead of the tie though, saying in the Citizen: “I’m old-fashioned, the league is more important to me. I always say that to be the best club is where you end up after 30 games.

“Obviously, cup competitions are lucrative for the club owners and players. It creates a vibe and that’s very good. We’re very fortunate in South Africa to have these cup competitions over the last 30 or 40 years. But the league for me is really where you should be judged.”

Cape Town City boss Eric Tinkler has no such qualms though and will be eager for a big win over an in-form Golden Arrows when the two sides clash at the Mpumalanga Stadium.

Arrows are in second place on the standings, four places above City following their surprise start to the season.

Tinkler has previously won the 2016/17 Telkom Knockout with City and the 2017/18 MTN8 with SuperSport United and is also eager to add to his CV.

He said in the Sowetan: “Winning cups always boosts your CV and earns you respect as a coach. So, it’d be nice for me to help Cape Town City win this Carling Knockout. It’d also be historical to win it in its inaugural season.

“My aim has always been to win at least one cup per season but it’s been difficult because we only had the MTN8 and the Nedbank Cup, apart from the league, in recent years; so this cup gives me hope that maybe I can push for that goal.”

Arrows boss Mabhuti Khenyeza added: “As Golden Arrows we were lucky to have a draw at home which is our advantage. We will need to show advantage because when we play away we do feel that we are not at home, at the same time we will make sure that we push them.”

Elsewhere, Chippa United host Stellenbosch, and with Chilli Boys boss Morgan Mammila still in a job,it means he hasn’t had the worst start to his season.

The club are in seventh place on the league standings with three wins from nine, as well as four draws and just two losses.

They most recently drew 0-0 with Swallows, while Stellenbosch, in 10th place, also have three league victories – but Steve Barker’s side made it to the semi-finals of the MTN8, where they lost on away goals to eventual winners Orlando Pirates.

Mammila would have preferred to have faced a different opponent in the Carling Knockout though, saying after the draw: “If not Sundowns, I thought I would get Pirates, if not them, then Chiefs.

“I am very disappointed because playing those three teams at Nelson Mandela Bay, we are talking about more than 30 000 people in the stadium.

“I am one of them. I enjoy these kinds of games, but we are playing against a hard-working Stellenbosch team.”

And Sekhukhune United take on Royal AM as Richards Bay are home against Swallows.

Sekhukhune have been impressive in the CAF Confederation Cup, progressing to the group stages, while Royal AM, who only have their league campaign to worry about, are four places and three points worse off than their opponents and will be looking for a good cup run to boost their season.

Royal AM boss John Maduka said in the Sowetan: “Good draw. All the teams that were here are very good, it doesn’t matter who you play against.

“We got Sekhukhune away from home. We must just work hard and prepare well for this game to go to the second round of this competition.

“I think we are one of the very ambitious teams. There is no cup where we were eliminated in the first round. We went as far as the quarter-finals.

“So this one as well, we will try to prepare to go to the next stage.”

Full Saturday fixtures:

Chippa United v Stellenbosch

Golden Arrows v Cape Town City

Kaizer Chiefs v AmaZulu

Sekhukhune United v Royal AM

Richards Bay v Swallows

SuperSport United v Polokwane City