Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has provided an update on injured Warriors striker Khama Billiat.
The Zimbabwean was taken off in the second half of Sunday’s Carling Black Label Cup pre-season match against Orlando Pirates, in which Amakhosi won on penalties after the match ended goalless in regulation time.
Given that the 30-year-old missed 26 games in all competitions through injury last season, it is understandable why the fans feared for the worst when he hobbled off the pitch on Sunday.
However, Baxter revealed that withdrawing the talisman was only a precautionary measure, especially with the commencement of the season in two weeks’ time.
“Khama was a precaution, you know Khama has been out for a long time,” Baxter told journalists after the game.
Baxter admits that Billiat was rushed back to be fit in time for the club’s crucial Caf Champions League final against Al Ahly last month, but thankfully he had only suffered from a bout of cramp on Sunday rather than aggravating the injury that sidelined him last season.
“He came back and we rushed him in a way to be available for the (Caf Champions League) final. He was sharp in the training leading up to the final and I was tempted to start him, but he hadn’t played any games, so it was probably wise not to give him more than a half.
“But we had planned that Khama would come in at half time and as it turned out, it was with 10-men, but Khama’s injury was not the injury that he came off with. He started cramping badly, which was an indication that fatigue was setting in and we didn’t want the hamstring to go or the groin to pop, so we took him (out) even though it was an important game, we took him out,” Baxter added.
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Indications are that Billiat could be ready for Chiefs’ opener on August 14, which will be against Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8.
His return should provide a big boost for Zimbabwe national team coach Zdravko Logarušic ahead of the Warriors’ clash with Bafana Bafana and Ethiopia in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers next month.
Billiat missed national team matches against Botswana and Zambia in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers earlier this year due to recurrent injuries.
Zimbabwe managed to qualify for the finals after edging out Botswana 1-0 and their defeat to Chipolopolo of Zambia in the last match was of little consequence.
The Warriors will seek a fast start when they host Bafana Bafana in the first match in Harare at the National Sports Stadium. — SoccerLaduma/Sports Reporter