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SA SOCCER NEWS
Palacios Not Fazed By Weakened Squad 11/12/03
Orlando Pirates manager Augusto Palacios says that he is not overly concerned over the unavailability of three key players for Saturday's big clash against Kaizer Chiefs (FNB Stadium, 4pm).

The former Bafana Bafana coach has been a catalyst for the improving fortunes of the Bucs since taking over from Roy Barreto, but will face the ultimate test of his managerial skills in the match against Pirates' arch rivals.

His task will be made even more difficult without captain Papi Khomane (suspended), free-scoring midfielder Hleza Mofedi (injured) and influential playmaker Bennedict Vilakazi, who looks set to miss the match due to his wedding being on the same day.

But Palacios is still confident that his men can do the job against the new Coca-Cola cup champions, pointing out that the Bucs have a very healthy sized squad to choose from.

"We have a squad of 35 players, and that should be enough to draw from and send out a competitive eleven on Saturday," Palacios is quoted as saying on the Star website.

He continued: "We are going there for the three points and have adequate replacements to compensate for the absent trio."

Although Mofedi and Vilakazi have both been in sparkling goalscoring form of late, the Peruvian-born coach has more than enough quality to call on in the midfield department.

He suggested that Vilakazi will be replaced by Daniel "Sailor" Tshabalala, while Steve Lekoelea, Sibusiso Mazibuko, Thapelo Liau, James Mothibi and Lebohang Mokoena are all more than adequate replacements for Mofedi,

Palacios' decision on which of the above players to use will be influenced by whether he decides to use a twin strike force or employ only Jimmy Kauleza upfront and rely on quick support from the midfield.

It is this tactic which has brought the team success in recent times - it makes sense as the Buccaneers have an abundance of midfield talent, while their strike-force remains rather threadbare.

A more worrying decision for Palacios will be to decide who to replace Khomane with.

With Lucky Lekgwhati still out injured, Palacios has very few options available to him and might be forced to draft right-back Felix Mwamba Musasa into the centre back position.

Musasa has played very little since Jimmy Tau regained his place in the team, and the DRC international will certainly have his work cut out in trying to deal with Chiefs lightning quick strike-force.

The performance of Khomane's replacement is very likely to make the difference between winning or losing the game for Pirates on Saturday and Palacios will have to think long and hard about who he brings in.

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