CHICKEN Inn have declared themselves ready for battle ahead of tonight’s crunch Caf Champions League preliminary round second leg football clash against Mamelodi Sundowns at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Pretoria.
BY SAKHELENI NXUMALO
The Gamecocks go into the encounter carrying a slender 1-0 lead following their sensational first leg victory at home in Bulawayo two weeks ago.
Striker Michelle Katsvairo was on target for the Joey Antipas-coached side.
Chicken Inn official Mlungisi Moyo said the Zimbabwean champions were prepared to fight to the bitter end to ensure they progress to the next stage of the competition.
“We are ready for battle and we are going to give it our best shot,” Moyo said.
“The coaches have been busy fine-tuning the team and the boys are in high spirits and willing to fight to the bitter end,” Moyo said.
The Gamecocks arrived in South Africa on Wednesday afternoon with the intention of having a couple of training sessions under floodlights.
They managed to do that at Sundowns’ Chloorkop training facility and another one at the match venue yesterday night.
Antipas told South African football magazine Kick Off on Thursday that his charges will maintain their cautious approach to the game and try and deny Sundowns space.
“We shouldn’t give them the space they thrive on and should make sure that we close them down quick. We will also be cautious in our approach because we are coming up against a team that is already in peak condition while we are still in pre-season gear. Luckily, for us we have a clean bill of health,” Antipas said.
Sitting back and relying on the counter worked wonders for the Gamecocks in the first leg as they successfully frustrated the South African Premiership leaders, who failed to create clear-cut chances the entire match.
The availability of veteran midfielder Clemence Matawu is likely to give Antipas more attacking flair on the break.
Matawu’s experience was sorely missed in the first leg as some of Chicken Inn’s quick breaks fizzled out prematurely because of a poor final pass and poor decision-making.
His availability also provides more cover for the Gamecocks defence as the workaholic former Motor Action man is usually quick to track back and assist in defence. Skipper Danny Phiri and Edmore Chirambadare were outstanding for the Gamecocks in the reverse fixture and a lot will be expected of them tonight.
Chicken Inn put up a remarkable team effort a fortnight ago to reduce the highly-rated Sundowns striking duo of Keagan Dolly and Leornardo Castro to average players.
This time around the pair will be joined by Zimbabwean Khama Billiat, who is available after sitting out the first leg encounter due to injury concerns, and Antipas said his charges will have to be alert throughout the match.
“Sundowns are a high quality team with top players who can turn a game on its head at any moment, so we will need to have our concentration at a very high level,” Antipas told Kick Off.