LISTEN CAREFULLY:  Kaizer Chiefs  goalkeeper  Itumeleng  Khune  discusses  tactics with  coach Stuart  Baxter during  training in  Naturena  on Wednesday.  Picture: GALLO  IMAGES
LISTEN CAREFULLY: Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune discusses tactics with coach Stuart Baxter during training in Naturena on Wednesday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

KAIZER Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter is dreading the looming African Nations Cup tournament as the Premier Soccer League (PSL) will suspend domestic premiership fixtures for nearly two months to accommodate the continental showpiece.

The PSL will take a seven-week break from December 19 to accommodate the African Nations Cup — to be staged in South Africa from January 19 to February 10 — and Baxter said on Wednesday he was worried that the rhythm of his premiership leaders could be affected by the time the season resumes on February 13.

"The African Nations Cup is a worrying issue for me," Baxter said. "If (Bafana) are successful and get to the final, we will get the players back maybe three or four days before the league resumes after the African Nations Cup.

"I cannot play my players two days after that and they will need to have some time off. That may mean we will go into the first few games with a very depleted team."

Chiefs have goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, defenders Tsepo Masilela and Siboniso Gaxa, midfielders Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Siphiwe Tshabalala, and strikers Bernard Parker and Lehlohonolo Majoro in the Bafana squad that will play Malawi in a friendly international in Durban on December 22.

Defender Eric Mathoho is on a standby list of 12 players and will join the Bafana squad on December 27.

Some of these players have been regulars in coach Gordon Igesund’s Bafana squad and they are expected to make the final African Nations Cup squad.

Chiefs have topped the log since the start of the season in August and have a three-point lead over second-placed Orlando Pirates.

The Briton is worried that injuries sustained during the African Nations Cup, fatigue and loss of form could scuttle his plans to win the premiership title.

"It is a concern because we have got so many players who will be part of the team, even if they do not play. Even if they do not all play, they will be on six or seven weeks of national duty. It will be a challenge for everybody to quickly get back into the same rhythm.

"It will be a challenge for everybody to get fit at the same time."

Baxter said the other problem was around the number of players who were selected for the Malawi match on December 22. The Briton said many of these players could have done with a rest after shuttling between Chiefs and the national team for the past few months. He cited the example of striker Bernard Parker, who was in scintillating form in the first few matches of the premiership season but has since lost a bit of form after returning from a Bafana camp in October.

Baxter said Parker had struggled since travelling with Bafana to play in Poland and Kenya, mainly due to an overloaded programme.

"I will speak to Gordon and I will speak to (the South African Football Association) about the bigger picture and the overloading of the players.

"The national team took our players to Poland and Kenya, and when they came back they had to play against Bidvest Wits two days later, which we have suffered for since.

"You know we have been walking a tightrope with Parker since then (because) of fatigue," he said.

"We have been told by Safa that they take no responsibility for the fitness or the injuries that happen on the players and we have to. So there will be a discussion.

"Basically we want our players to play in the national team. Basically we want to support the national team wherever we can. But we cannot let our players be invalids in the future. We have to use them with common sense and respect."