Weighing up the Telkom semifinalists

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After indifferent results over the last week, Kaizer Chiefs will be heading into their game against Bloemfontein Celtic full of confidence, while the second semi-final will see a confident Mamelodi Sundowns play surprise team Free State Stars.

Amakhosi overcame Supersport United in the previous round and returned to league action with a comfortable 3-0 win over fellow semi-finalists FS Stars.

However, Muhsin Ertugral’s team face Moroka Swallows in midweek, a game that could count against them ahead of their Saturday showdown with Celtic at the Mmabatho Stadium.

Khabo Zondo’s Siwelele, meanwhile, have struggled since they edged AmaZulu 1-0 in the quarter-finals, with a home defeat to Sundowns and 1-1 draw with Golden Arrows.

The second semi-final at Kimberley’s Absa Stadium could prove a more intriguing tie with FS Stars looking to continue their cup run that has so far seen them role over Ajax Cape Town and Cosmos.

Kinnah Phiri’s team have also been in good form of late having gained a valuable point at Ajax, while they also have the advantage of a midweek break ahead of this weekend’s action.

In contrast, Sundowns’ coach Gordon Igesund has seen his side ride high with their win in the previous round over Thanda Royal Zulu followed by victory in Bloemfontein and more impressively against a rejuvenated Pirates at the weekend. The Brazilians have a midweek game to contend with against Santos, but they are certain to give FS Stars the respect they deserve in what promises to be an action packed weekend of Telkom Knockout action.

The Telkom Knockout semifinals in Mmabatho and Kimberley will present the best of football and entertainment.

The early birds will receive give-aways at the gates and the action will start at 13h00 with a mini music festival, featuring artists like DJ What What, Chommee and Arthur. There will also be sky diving and Parachute Drop Displays, and big screens will be erected in the stadiums to ensure that no one misses out on the action and festival atmosphere.

Sundowns’ Igesund was calm in his assessment of the Brazilians’ chances and naturally opted to focus on his team’s midweek tie against Santos.

“We are ready for the game,” he said. “But we’ve got a big game coming up against Santos and we’ll just be hoping that we don’t pick up any injuries and things like that. Because we got to obviously focus on our league game as well as the cup. The guys are very motivated and we’ve had some really good results in the last couple of weeks, and they are playing well and we all are looking forward to it.”

However, Igesund warned that Stars could be a tough nut to crack. He added: “The only thing is that Free State Stars are quite unknown to us and especially to me. I’ve only watched them on DVD, they a completely new side. It’s always difficult to play against these sides you don’t know too much about.”

FS Stars spokesman Louis Tshakoane added: “We are preparing very well in terms of the team. In actual fact, the team is leaving tomorrow (Wednesday) for Kimberley to prepare there. I think we will be ready for Sundowns.

“The midweek game won’t affect them because they are quite a big squad and they are quite a professional team and they will come out smoking, but we will be prepared.”

Celtic are equally buoyant about their chances, but team manager Khumbulani Konco admits they are focussing fully on their own preparation.

“It’s a big one, the guys are pumped up already. Playing Kaizer Chiefs is a motivation in itself. On top of that, it’s a knockout and just 90 minutes away from the final. We are not concerned about them, we will look at ourselves,” he adds.

Chiefs Muhsin Ertugral says his squad has been playing with a lot of confidence throughout the Cup.

“Given the way we had to fight against Supersport, we have to fancy ourselves to get to the final, we have come this far and bowing out at the semi-finals is not an option."

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