The Nedbank Cup resumes on Saturday afternoon with two mouth-watering encounters on offer.
In the pick of the day’s Round of 16 action, the high-flying Free State Stars will welcome Chippa United to Bethlehem. Ea Lla Koto are currently in an unprecedented third place on the Premier Soccer league (PSL) log, and a knockout clash could not have come at a better time as they are six games unbeaten in all competitions.
However, knockout tournaments have a way of usually disregarding the form book, which could come as a blessing for the Chilli Boys. Despite starting the season like a house on fire, Chippa look to have reverted back to their old tricks as once again they parted ways with their head coach. Chippa’s recent form where they have only won one game in their last five encounters signalled the end of Teboho Moloi’s tenure as he left the club less than 12 months after taking over.
Nonetheless, Chippa have been quick to fill the void with the appointment of Vladislav Heric to the helm. The Serbian who returns to the Chippa hot seat after many years away, will hope to hit the ground running and use the Nedbank Cup as a springboard to ensure Chippa finish in the top eight.
But the clash is likely to be a testing affair for the Eastern Cape-based outfit who have only beaten Stars on three occasions previously, with the most recent victory coming in 2016. Stars though, are certainly not the same team from back then, and with the likes of Mohammed Anas hitting his best form alongside former Kaizer Chiefs striker Siphelele Mthembu, it could be a tough outing for Chippa.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Heric will look to change things around or build on the foundation which Moloi has already laid. Heric can call upon the likes of the club’s leading goal scorer Katlego Mashego with Kurt Lentjies providing the creative spark if he so chooses.
Nevertheless, the encounter promises to be an intriguing encounter, and although the last two encounters have ended in draws, at least this time around fans at Goble Park will not have to worry about that as there is guaranteed to be a winner.
Lastly, elsewhere in the country, Baroka host minnows Steenberg United at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in the other afternoon kick-off. The clash is set to be the Western-Cape-based outfit’s biggest test to date as they look to tame an attack that has arguably one of the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) most lethal attackers in Gift Motupa. The on-loan Orlando Pirates hitman has already found the back of the net on nine occasions this season and he will hope to build on that form.
For Baroka though, the game gives them an opportunity to put aside their recent off-field troubles and focus on what they do best, that is playing football. Bakgaga will also hope to use the fact that they needed to overcome a tricky Platinum Stars in the previous round as motivation as they look to progress into the quarterfinals and challenge for silverware.