Kaizer Chiefs set to face Bloem Celtic with their backs against the wall
Life on the Kaizer Chiefs bench has been arduous for Gavin Hunt and there were times when the increasingly pressured coach had the tormented look of a man attempting to sit on a bed of coals.
The atmosphere of euphoric excitement that greeted his arrival in Naturena in September is a distant memory and it has been replaced by an impending sense of doom among the supporters as the club continues to lurch from one disappointing result to the next.
Insomnia must be a constant companion for Hunt and Tuesday night's 2-1 league defeat to Supersport United plunged him into a fresh bout of despair as it was yet another example of a game they should have won but somehow contrived to lose.
While the deflating result visibly took a lot out of him and he admitted as much in his post match interviews‚ he will need to gather himself very quickly and prepare for another potential minefield in the form of Bloemfontein Celtic.
Chiefs host Celtic at FNB Stadium on Saturday in their last match of the year before the Christmas break and the ailing Naturena side will need to put the disappointment of Tuesday night behind them if they are to avoid another setback against the tricky Bloemfontein side.
Midfielder Lebogang Manyama conceded that Celtic are formidable adversaries and could plunge Chiefs into further misery if they allow the ghosts of the last few weeks to continue to torment. "I think we absolutely dominated large parts of the game [against United]‚ probably the best game we have played all season as a team and as individuals‚" lamented Manyama.
"Obviously a lot of positives to take [from the defeat]. I can't really speak about the mistakes [they committed plenty‚ including a howler from goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune]‚ they speak for themselves and I don't really need to talk about them. We know we are not supposed to do them.
"I mean‚ like a said‚ a lot positives to take and come Saturday [against Celtic] we need to have the same energy‚ the same hunger‚ a little bit more‚ obviously less mistakes you know."
Celtic are certainly no slouches and while they are tenth on the standings‚ their position is misleading as it conceals the true nature of a dangerous side that is able to go toe-to-toe with any team in the league.
Manyama is well aware of the threat they pose and warned that the Free State visitors carry more than enough guns to make life very difficult at FNB stadium.
"Obviously Celtic are another team that is unbelievable on the break‚" he said.
"They have just played a cup final [the MTN8 against Orlando Pirates]‚ but unfortunately they could not win it [Celtic were beaten 2-1]. But you see that they immediately bounced back in their next game [they beat Baroka 2-0 on Wednesday] and it was the same old Celtic we have played over the years.
"They are quick on the counter‚ very good on the ball‚ very good players‚ [Ndumiso] Mabena‚ [Tebogo] Potsane‚ [Lantshene] Phalane‚ aaah you know the core of that team is very strong and we know what to expect.
"They love playing with the ball. But like I said‚ the onus is on us to show the same performance we showed against Supersport. And a bit more‚ obviously try to take our chances and to bury the game early which we had a chance to do against Supersport. Unfortunately we couldn't‚ but jah there are a lot positives and we are starting to head in the right direction."
Chiefs are just five points away from basement side Maritzburg United and such has been their decline that it is almost easy to forget that they finished runners-up to champions Mamelodi Sundowns last season‚ surrendering the league title on the final day of the campaign.
They have won only one game in seven outings and will be desperate to salvage something from the Celtic encounter and end the year with some semblance of stability.
"We need the points to move away from the bottom [half of the standings] at the end of the year‚ just to start up‚ you know‚ so that when we start next year we start a bit higher‚ with a bit more confidence‚" Manyama said.
"Obviously we know there is a game after that also‚ so it builds confidence. We have a very huge game after that‚ but we are not thinking about that. You only gain confidence after you play well and I think we played very well and we have to build on that."
Full list of this weekend's fixtures:
Maritzburg United vs Stellenbosch at Harry Gwala Stadium (7pm)
Golden Arrows vs Mamelodi Sundowns at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium (3:30pm) Baroka vs SuperSport United at Peter Mokaba Stadium (3:30pm) Kaizer Chiefs vs Bloemfontein Celtic at FNB Stadium (6pm) Cape Town City vs TS Galaxy at Cape Town Stadium (6pm)
Black Leopards vs Swallows at Thohoyandou Stadium (3:30pm) AmaZulu vs Chippa United at Kings Park Stadium (3:30pm)