Middendorp has plenty to think about ahead of Saturday's finale
Absa Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs will have no suspensions‚ but there is a big question mark over the fitness of centreback Erick Mathoho and right-back Kgotso Moleko for the crucial final-round clash with Baroka FC at Bidvest Stadium on Saturday.
Chiefs have a slender goal lead on Mamelodi Sundowns (both are on 56 points‚ with Amakhosi on +21 and Downs on +18) after a 1-0 win against Chippa United at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night.
There were casualties on both sides‚ as Chippa saw midfielder Tercious Malepe and defender Elvis Moyo red-carded‚ and both will be suspended for the Chilli Boys' final fixture against Lamontville Golden Arrows at Orlando.
For Chiefs‚ the struggle to earn just their second win in seven games in the biobubble resulted in Moleko (replaced by Ramahlwe Mphalele in the 55th minute) and Mathoho (substituted by Siyabonga Nezana in the 75th)‚ limping off before the end.
"There are some question marks. Moleko is definitely a big question mark. With Mathoho‚ we have to look at how far he will be recovered‚" Middendorp said‚ asked afterwards about a prognosis for Saturday's final game.
"At the moment it's three days to go. We have around 60‚ 65 hours' time starting tomorrow [Thursday] morning preparing the team‚ refreshing the team.
"And we will see. It's a little bit early to say‚ 'This player and this player are not available'. Important for us is that we didn't pick up any yellow cards. There will be no suspensions.
"And‚ for example‚ Lebogang Manyama played 60‚ 65 minutes. We had to take him out. It was a very clear order from the medical staff not to go into a risk and he gets reinjured and we cannot use him on the weekend.
"So no yellow cards. I hope each and everybody will be available‚ refreshing with a view to Saturday's game."
Khama Billiat scored Chiefs' ninth-minute winner‚ the Zimbabwean star's second strike of the season.
Sundowns‚ who beat last-placed Polokwane City 3-0 on Wednesday‚ meet third-last Black Leopards at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday‚ with all the final-round matches kicking off at 3.30pm.
Meanwhile the state of the pitch at Dobsonville Stadium has annoyed outspoken Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane so much that he has called for the Soweto venue to be closed at the end of the season.
The venue was allocated to Sundowns in August when each of the 16 Absa Premiership clubs were given new ‘homes’ in the biobubble and their record there has left Mosimane seething after draws against Highlands Parks and Orlando Pirates‚ a defeat to Baroka FC and a win against Lamontville Golden Arrows.
Mosimane did not mince his words and said the pitch has no business hosting topflight matches.
“I don’t know where [recently promoted] Swallows FC are going to play [next season]‚ but that pitch is not the right pitch because it is not improving and it has a heavy load on it."
Sundowns return to their unwanted adopted home for the all-important and final match of the season against Black Leopards on Saturday, and Mosimane is dreading the trip.
The Sundowns coach was at least happy on Wednesday night after his charges beat almost relegated Polokwane City 3-0 at their usual home ground at Loftus in Pretoria.
He conceded that he was happy to be back at familiar Loftus.
“Here at Loftus‚ the pitch helps and you can also say the familiar territory helped the players because Themba Zwane and them know where to be in the spaces and everything is familiar.
"It was good to score three goals against City but we deserved more, to be honest.” — Additional reporting by Mahlatse Mphahlele
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