BULAWAYO - Chicken Inn’s opponents in the Caf Champions League preliminary round tie, Mamelodi Sundowns, are expected in the country this morning for tomorrow’s first leg clash at Barbourfields Stadium.
The Gamecocks have a tough task against the Brazilians who boast of a marauding attack led by Zimbabwe international Khama Billiart.
There is no doubt, Sundowns, who reached the final of the competition in 2001 before losing to African giants Al Ahly, will start the tie as favourites.
The Brazilians backed by Patrice Motsepe’s billions have one of the biggest and most talented squads in the South African Premiership where they are currently in first place on the log table.
Sundowns’ remarkable run of form in the last six months has seen them go 20 games without defeat which calls for the Gamecocks to be at their best if they entertain any hopes of progressing to the next round.
And judging by the manner they dismantled Orlando Pirates on Wednesday, the Gamecocks really need to be at their best if they entertain any hopes of progressing to the next round.
Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas acknowledged his opponents’ superiority and revealed they will employ a cautious approach in dealing with their on-fire South African opponents.
Antipas said he was concerned by Sundowns’ current form that has seen them bagging 15 goals in their last five Absa premiership matches.
“It is quite a big concern, Sundowns are like a house on fire,” Antipas said.
“They are playing very well, consistent and have got a very good squad but we are just going to try and knuckle them down and close their supply lines and be strong in defence and also strong as a unit,’ he said.
“That being our first game we have to go there and play a cautious game.
“We cannot go out there and charge at them like Red Indians, we have got to be cautious because if we go out there and take them head on, Sundowns are a very brilliant side they can expose us.
“We are not saying we are going out there to park the bus but to be cautious.”
While he admitted that as a coach he was also under pressure to get a comfortable lead taking advantage of playing at home, he said good defending and cutting the opposition’s supply lines can save the day.
“The fact that we are playing the champions league during our own off season means that we are more or less at fifty-fifty in terms of physical preparedness.
“I know match fitness is still down compared to our opponents who have gone half way through their season and are in good shape,” he said.
Antipas said he had a wide selection of players to choose from as most of them are back in camp and in good shape.
“This is the first time we have a full complement of players. Those who were on national duty are back and players from injuries are back.
“We more or less have a full complement to choose from except Clement Matawu and Teenage Hadebe who are not yet match fit.”
Antipas who led his charges to their maiden league title last season says he is hoping to use home advantage urging fans to come and support the team as they are representing the country.
“In Africa, when you play at home it’s got to be an advantage, you have to take advantage of your own venue.
“It’s our first game of the season; we would have loved to play at Luveve Stadium because that is our hunting ground.
“Barboufields is quite heavy because you could see the guys struggling a bit on the pitch because the grass is still tall,” he said.