Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas denied that he spared some of his key players in Sunday’s Telkom Knockout last-16 win over Black Leopards, because he was keeping them for the Soweto derby, where they meet deadly rivals Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium this weekend.
Chiefs took the field against Leopards without the likes of Itumeleng Khune, Khama Billiat, Leonardo Castro and Dumisani Zuma who were all said to be nursing injuries.
While Solinas insisted the players were injured, he could not reveal the injuries and their extent, but said he was hopeful they would be there for the “special match”.
Chiefs only won the TKO match 4-2 on penalties as they could not match their previous fluidity without six of their key men.
“I knew it would be a tough game without the six key players. Even Real Madrid and Barcelona would also struggle without six of their key players. We didn’t have Castro, Lebo (Manyama), Billiat, Zuma and (Siyabonga) Ngezana. We lost key players in the attacking department. These are players who are used to playing together. You can change one or two players but you keep your structure. But this bad luck is not finished with us. We lost our key players. It is unbelievable.
“I hope these players can recover for the derby. Castro will start full training with the team on Monday (yesterday). I hope we can have Billiat back as well. Lebo will not be available. These players make a difference. If Barcelona were to play without (Luis) Suarez (Leo) Messi and Dembele they would not be the same. I don’t mean to say I don’t believe in the players who played on Sunday,” he said.
The Italian coach described the derby as a special game that will be demanding on his team and he promised to prepare his men properly so they can hopefully give their supporters bragging rights.
“We hope to have them back because the derby is a special game for the coach, the players, the club and the supporters. We need to prepare very well for this game. It is a very difficult game because Pirates are a good team. They have a good coach and good players.
“But Kaizer Chiefs also have good players, not a good coach but good players,” joked Solinas.