Chiefs throw down challenge

Kaizer Chiefs assistant coach Ace Khuse threw down the gauntlet to Manchester City daring them to field their strongest side when the clubs meet in the second of the Vodacom Challenge matches at Durban’s Absa Stadium on Tuesday night.

Khuse said that nobody could read anything into Amakhosi’s arch rivals, Orlando Pirates’ 2-0 win over a second-string City in the opening Challenge showdown at a packed Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.

Said a confident sounding Khuse: “City must field all their big stars against us. We want to beat the real big guns that City have brought out to play in the challenge.

“All credit to Pirates for winning, but they played against a diluted City side. There were not many of their big guns playing. We are appealing to City to ensure they field all their big stars including their new signings [such as Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz and Gareth Barry].”

City fielded only a couple of big name players such as striker Craig Bellamy, Stephen Ireland and Martin Petrov, against the Buccaneers who were also without their four Bafana Bafana stars, Katlego Mashego, Innocent Mdledle, Benson Mhlongo and Teko Modise, rested by coach Ruud Krol after they helped Bafana finish fourth in last month’s Confederations Cup.

City manager Mark Hughes has spent a fortune so far brining in England international midfield powerhouse Barry from Aston Villa, Argentine striker Tevez from neighbours United, Paraguay striker Santa Cruz from Blackburn Rovers and Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal, who signed too late to join the week long SA tour.

Hughes said Santa Cruz is recovering from an operation and is not likely to play against Chiefs, but both Barry and Tevez are in the frame along with former Jomo Cosmos striker Benjani Mwaruwari, plus the two England midfield stars, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Johnson.

Said Hughes: “We expect a tough 90 minutes against Chiefs and I am preparing for a similar game as we had against Pirates. This is about getting my players into condition and every minute on the field is important.”

Said Khuse: “The reason we want to play against the best City have is to gain experience and help us prepare for what is going to be a tough, compact PSL season.

“It will benefit us if City field their best side against us. The result is not as important as getting our squad battle ready for the new season which starts right after the Challenge.

“This Challenge series is a vital part of our pre-season training and we want to face the best both City and Pirates have to offer.”

Chiefs and Pirates go head to head in the third Challenge clash in Port Elizabeth on Thursday night. The winner earns the right to face City in the Challenge final at Loftus on Saturday.

Chiefs, under new coach Vladimir Vermezovic, are unbeaten in pre-season matches having beaten both Bay United and PSL champions SuperSport United recently in PE and they also held the Iran national team to a 0-0 draw in Bloemfontein last weekend.

Amakhosi will not risk their two Bafana stars, goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and left wing Siphiwe Tshabalala, who shone in the Confederations Cup.

But Chiefs have a new rough diamond in 20-year-old keeper Thela Ngobeni who starred against Iran. Amakhosi also have a much stronger attack with the signing of former Bafana striker Nkosinathi “Chippa” Nhleko and teenage Zimbabwean striker Knowledge Musona who will be fighting for a place in the starting line-up against Kaizer Motaung junior, Jose Torrealba and Tsepho Bulu.

Chiefs’ new midfielder Mthokozisi Yende, signed from Pretoria University, is also expected to get some game time against City.—Sapa

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