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GRITTY Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Willard Katsande insists the Absa Premiership marathon is still a three-horse race and believes Zimbabwean players at the trio of the chasing clubs will have a huge say in deciding the destiny of the 2014 title.

Katsande has been having a dream season with Amakhosi and has helped Chiefs to cling onto pole position and stand on the threshold of retaining the championship.

Chiefs are on top with 52 points. Amakhosi, however, dropped three points at home for the first time on Saturday when they were beaten 1-0 by title rivals Mamelodi Sundowns who drew level on points courtesy of a Teko Modise goal.

Katsande, speaking from his base in Johannesburg, also reckoned that third-placed Wits, who ended Mpumalanga Black Aces six-match unbeaten run at the weekend, are also still in with a chance.

Katsande said the contributions of players like Knowledge Musona, Kingston Nkatha, Mathew Rusike at Chiefs, Cuthbert Malajila, Esrom Nyandoro and Khama Billiat (Sundowns) and the Wits quartet of Denver Mukamba and veterans Tinashe Nengomasha, Onismor Bhasera and Benjani Mwaruwari, could be central in deciding who is crowned the 2014 champions.

But it is Chiefs that Katsande naturally tips to win the title arguing that despite the defeat by Sundowns at FNB Soccer City the destiny of the championship remained firmly in their hands.

Chiefs also have a game in hand over Sundowns and will be back in action when they take on Method Mwanjali, Tendai Ndoro and Energy Murambadoro’s Mpumalanga Black Aces at the same venue tomorrow night.

Katsande, who has been one of the stand out players for Chiefs so much that his English coach Stuart Baxter believes he could win the Player of the Year award, said Amakhosi would have to avoid any further slip-ups in their remaining six games.

“Obviously a defeat is not a good thing whether you are chasing the title or not but it must be remembered that Sundowns are not just an ordinary team, they are title contenders.

“Now that we have six games remaining, we should not expect any team to do us any favours, we just have to do everything for ourselves and we have to quickly pick up again.

“We have been in this kind of situation before, in fact last season we were in a similar situation but this time it was against Platinum Stars who are closely chasing for the league title,” Katsande said.

The 28-year-old former Gunners and Ajax Cape Town man also noted that the title race had become tougher this season following the late surge by Sundowns and the pressure mounted by third-placed Wits who have garnered 44 points from 23 matches.

“Last year we won the league with 58 points but this year it’s looking a bit tougher although we are already on 52 points many teams are giving away very little at this stage.

“Although people are talking about Sundowns and us I think we should not rule out Wits because they also got a lot of experienced players in their squad,” Katsande said.

It is also the Zimbabwean touch in the three chasing teams that has charmed Katsande and which the tough tackling midfielder believes could stand Ian Gorowa’s Warriors in good stead ahead the start of the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

“It’s a big competition amongst ourselves as Zimbabweans here to see which club will walk away with the championship but I also think this is good for the national team because the quality of the football in our league has continued to improve and when you have some of the national team players involved with the big clubs in a league like ours then it will help us as a country.

“We obviously would want to retain the title and we have to make the most of our games against Black Aces, Polokwane City, Wits, AmaZulu, Free State Stars and University of Pretoria.”

Katsande, who rarely ventures into scoring positions because of his defensive duties and his one goal to show for his heroics — the winner in the Soweto derby against Pirates this season — also said they had “gained some valuable experience from playing in the Champions League”.

Chiefs had shown so much promise in the earlier rounds in which they hammered Namibia’s Black Africa and Liga Muculmana of Mozambique but found the going tough against AS Vita of DRC who edged them 3-2 on aggregate.

Source : The Herald