Gavin Hunt coach of Kaizer Chiefs.Picture: SYDNEY MAHLANGU/BACKPAGEPIX
Gavin Hunt coach of Kaizer Chiefs.Picture: SYDNEY MAHLANGU/BACKPAGEPIX

Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt says his side know they are in a battle as they have slumped to 14th place in the Premier Soccer League (PSL)‚ and on top of that have a tough programme as they embark on the Caf Champions League group stages.

Amakhosi’s dismal start of just a single win in the league was extended to nine matches as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

As Amakhosi face Benni McCarthy’s ambitious AmaZulu in another tough fixture at Kings Park on Wednesday‚ Hunt said Chiefs‚ who said on Tuesday playmaker Khama Billiat would be out for two months with an injury‚ know they are set for a fight this season.

“Ja‚ we’ve obviously got to battle, we know we are in a fight now‚” the four-time PSL winner said. “Our programme is obviously very difficult with our squad. We are going to have to battle‚ and we are playing every two or three days.

“So I think maybe the best is for us to get away from here as well‚ and play outside‚ because I think we’re a bit better there. But having said that, I think we’ve got to be better at home‚ because our home record is not very good.”

Maritzburg coach Ernst Middendorp‚ who had his Chiefs contract discontinued despite guiding an ageing squad to runners-up in 2019/2020‚ was gracious in victory as he returned to FNB Stadium. The German said he felt Chiefs were disadvantaged by playing away in Angola last Tuesday‚ beating Primeiro da Agosto 1-0 to reach the Champions League group stage‚ while United had a week without football.

Hunt refused to take the bait. “We can’t use that as an excuse‚ about travelling and that. I mean‚ it wasn’t easy but that’s still no excuse‚” he said.

“We have to be better than that. We had four days. What we couldn’t do is change the team‚ but that’s still no excuse because players have to step up.”

Hunt also did not feel Middendorp’s intimate knowledge of Chiefs was influential.

“No‚ I don’t think that has anything to do with football‚ I don’t think that at all‚” he said. “Because there are a lot of players who played last year who weren’t playing on Saturday‚ so‚ no‚ I don’t think so.”

Besides the loss of Billiat, Leonardo Castro will also miss the game against Usuthu.

Chiefs said: “Khama Billiat has a cracked leg bone and will be out for two months. Leonardo Castro has an abdominal strain and will be unavailable for the AmaZulu game.

“[Midfielder] Kearyn Baccus is now back from injury and is available for selection. [Right-back] Reeve Frosler is now running on the pitch. We will update you on his progress.”

Billiat‚ the 30-year-old 2015/2016 Premier League Player of the Season — where he was a key player in Sundowns lifting the 2016 Caf Champions League trophy — joined Chiefs in July 2018.

After a decent return of nine league and cup goals in 2018/2019‚ he scored three goals last season‚ and has notched just the one in nine league games in 2020/2021.

Hunt’s contests with McCarthy‚ the Bafana Bafana legend whose career started under the former at Seven Stars‚ produced fireworks when the latter coached Cape Town City‚ and the matchup against Usuthu promises the same.

Chiefs’ first Champions League Group C clash is against Wydad Casablanca in Morocco on February 12. 

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