JOHANNESBURG – The two rivals, Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs, might be sitting on either end of the DStv Premiership standings ahead of their clash in Hatfield tomorrow, but they’ll be hoping to restore some redemption after a difficult week.
With this match, arguably one of the biggest fixtures on the local footballing calendar, Sundowns and Chiefs would have been expected to be battling it out for a superior spot on the log standings given their stature in the top-flight.
But far from it. In fact, it’s been Sundowns who have been among the title chasers in the last five seasons. Currently they lead the pile with 47 points after an unbeaten run of 21 league matches this season, while Chiefs are 11th, drowning in the bottom half of the standings.
Sundowns have ensured that they put the deep pockets of former president Patrice Motsepe into good use, bolstering the squad with quality signings such as Peter Shalulile. Chiefs, meanwhile, have been deprived of that pleasure after being handed a season-long transfer ban by Fifa.
However, both teams endured underwhelming results this week. Sundowns were hit with a double dose of misfortunes, crashing out of the Nedbank Cup semi-finals to rookies Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila on Sunday and were held to a 0-0 draw by fellow title hopefuls AmaZulu on Wednesday.
The Glamour Boys on the other hand, yet again found the going in the top eight tough, after a humbling home defeat to Cape Town City. Sundowns and Chiefs might be meeting for the last time in the league but they could still clash in the Champions League quarter-finals.
This is the first time where the Premier Soccer League has two teams in the last-eight of the Pan-African competition. Orlando Pirates, though, are hoping to become the third team to participate in the quarterfinals of continental football this season via the Confederation Cup.
The Bucs, though, will need at least a scoring draw in their last game of the group stage in order to achieve that feat. For now, they’ll be hellbent on pushing for a top-two finish in the league standings, starting with three points against Swallows FC at Dobsonville Stadium today.
The Bucs are fourth on the standings with 38 points, one spot and point ahead of the Birds. Pirates’ coach Josef Zinnbauer knows that Pirates need a top two finish in order to qualify for the Champions League next season, saying they can’t afford to drop points in the last eight matches of the season.
However, that’s easier said than done. Swallows are looking to soar to a better finish as well, following an overwhelming return to top-flight this season. With this match being the last Original Soweto derby of the term, both sides will be looking for three points after their 1-all draw in the first leg.
Out in the Western Cape, though, Cape Town City and Stellenbosch will host Tshakhuma and Bloemfontein Celtic at the Cape Town Stadium and Danie Craven Stadium this afternoon at the back of contrasting results in the league this week.
The Citizens were responsible for Chiefs’ downfall away from home as they aim to consolidate their spot in the top eight. Currently, they are seventh with 33 points, six ahead of the eighth-placed Baroka FC who are not in action this weekend.
TTM, though, won’t be walkovers as they are high on confidence after that surprise win over Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup. But a team that’s looking for a morale booster is Stellies, given that they are winless in their last five matches in the league.
On Wednesday, they were held to a goalless draw by bottom-place occupants Black Leopards, while their next opponents Celtic, were forced to come from behind and settle for a 1-all draw with Swallows at home on Tuesday night.