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Platinum Stars v Bloem Celtic

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Phala: Dikwena's Bafana star

Phala: Dikwena's Bafana star

PSL surprise package Platinum Stars will want to pick up where they left off when Bloemfontein Celtic visit the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Wednesday.

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Dikwena resume their top-flight campaign in third place on the table, with 10 wins and five defeats, plus one draw, before the mid-season break.

Cavin Johnson's men also picked up a cool R1.5million in December having been crowned the Premiership Q-Innovation Quarter Two winners.

However, Stars' stunning run was halted last time out after they went down 2-0 at Moroka Swallows.

Johnson will have a fully-fit squad at his disposal after the seven-week intermission, and will look to Henrico Botes to continue his incredible form in front of goal.

Botes has scored six goals in the PSL so far, and along with South Africa star Thuso Phala, will provide the spark for Dinaledi as they aim to close the gap on second-placed Orlando Pirates and leaders Kaizer Chiefs.

Phala, though, played all of Bafana Bafana's matches at the Africa Cup of Nations recently and may very well be rested until at least the weekend's clash with Ajax Cape Town.

"We had a good first half of the season, I was happy with how we went about our business," Johnson told Backpage Txt.

"But in a way we have to start all over again now. It will be harder for us in the second half I think, teams will know a bit more about us, and many have strengthened in the transfer market.

"Celtic has a lot of quality in their team and their coach Clinton Larsen has done a great job there. We know their strengths and weaknesses though and we will do our best to get the second half of the season off to a positive start.

"This is especially important playing in front of our home fans. We played some good football last year. We scored goals, especially at home, and we want to be as entertaining again for the rest of the season."

Meanwhile, Celtic kickstart the second half of the season in seventh place and are hopeful their inconsistent form prior to the intermission is a thing of the past.

Phunya Sele Sele managed six wins, three draws and seven defeats to earn them just 21 points from 16 matches, their last encounter a 1-1 draw at home to Black Leopards.

Siwelele, though, shocked the pundits when they won the Telkom Knockout trophy against Mamelodi Sundowns, and Celtic coach Clinton Larsen is confident his troops are ready to kick on.

Larsen kept his men busy during the lay-off with several friendlies against local sides, with PSL rivals SuperSport United having handed them a 1-0 defeat earlier in the month.

"I'm happy with the progress of my players," he said. "They are picking up at the right time and I believe we will be even much better going into our first game of the New Year.

"I am particularly impressed with the progress of the youngsters in the team. We've got 11 under-23 players in our squad and that shows that we are building for the future. We must keep giving them some game time so that they can develop.

"We will be ready when we face Stars. The Reconciliation Challenge match [against SuperSport United] was a great preparation for our first game of the year."

Celtic welcome back skipper Thabo Nthethe from national duty, and the defender is likely to lead his team in Phokeng having failed to feature for Bafana at AFCON 2013.

Nthethe, though, will have to tread lightly from the outset as he heads into the midweek tussle one caution away from suspension.

New signing Roderick Mutuma will not make the trip because his work permit is not yet ready.

Posted: 12/02/13 14:12

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