Kaizer Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp has confirmed that he will be risking the trio of Daniel Cardoso, Reeve Frosler and Lebogang Manyama in the Nedbank Cup last 16 match against Highlands Park this weekend.

The three players are sitting on three yellow cards and caution at the sold-out Makhulong Stadium on Saturday afternoon will see them missing the all-important Soweto derby six pointer in the Absa Premiership against arch-rivals Orlando Pirates the following weekend.

Speaking just before Chiefs’ training session on Wednesday morning at the club’s Village in Naturena, Middendorp says this cup game is equally important and he needs his best players on the pitch.

All the three players have been regulars especially Cardoso and Manyama and they play crucial roles in the team particularly in the set-pieces. Middendorp says it’s also about trusting the depth of his squad.

The debate around goalkeepers Daniel Akpeyi and Itumeleng Khune is also raging especially after the Nigerian international’s howler which led to the first goal during the 2-1 loss to Maritzburg United this past weekend. Middendorp reiterates that Khune will play in the cup game.

It’s not a secret that Khune is a fan favourite and Chiefs fans have been itching to have him back even with the impressive performances Akpeyi has been having.

During this critical phase of the season, Khune’s distribution and reliability far supersede that of Akpeyi.

In building a case for the Nigerian to return for the Soweto derby, Middendorp says the fans are very smart and know what the Nigerian has done for the team this season.

Meanwhile, should Mamelodi Sundowns beat Bloemfontein Celtic in the league game tonight, they will return to the second spot and close the gap to only four points between them and Chiefs with only 10 games to go.

Middendorp has been coaching in the PSL for close to 15 years now but it’s for the first time that he finds himself in this situation, challenging for the league title and having to look over his shoulder.

At some stage Chiefs were 11 points clear at the top but the German-born coach says he’s always known that was not a true reflection of the log at that particular time.

Cardoso who has been one of the regulars this season, having played in all the 24 matches in all competitions this season, says their loss to Maritzburg was a wake-up call.

With 10 games to go and still have to play all the title chasers, Pirates, Sundowns and Bidvest Wits twice, Cardoso is fully aware of how these six pointers could go a long way to decide this title race…

– Report by Velile Mnyandu