Soweto giants battle for top spot

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iol spt dec7 Pirates-Chiefs2 Independent Newspapers Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs square off against title holders Orlando Pirates in the Soweto derby at FNB Stadium this weekend.Photo:Matthews Baloyi

Johannesburg – Both sides will be looking for momentum, as the league approaches a lengthy break, when Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs square off against title holders Orlando Pirates in the Soweto derby at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

Pirates are three points behind Chiefs after 13 rounds of matches, and Buccaneers coach Roger de Sa was eager to narrow the gap before the league hiatus for the holiday period and the Africa Cup of Nations.

“It is important, no doubt about it, because that break can be even longer if you’re not doing well, if you finish off on a bad note,” De Sa said.

“It is important for us to finish on a high. We set a target of a certain number of points that we’d like to achieve and hopefully if we reach that target we won’t have to worry so much about other teams.”

Amakhosi coach Stuart Baxter said his side would be looking to retain their lead ahead of the break, despite the pressure they faced at the top of the table.

“We've been at the top since the first kick off the ball, virtually, and that carries its challenges,” Baxter said.

“But we don't want to fall down to third place to skirt that challenge. We want to stay there as long as we can.”

While victory in the derby clash would give them a mental boost, Baxter admitted there was a long way to go in the league campaign, and victory in one game would mean little in the long run.

“Mentally, the impetus it can give you is important, but is it the decider? No, it's not,” he said.

“If we win this game the league is not won, and if we lose or draw, the league is not lost.”

Both coaches said they expected a tough challenge as they prepared to battle it out for the Premiership lead, and De Sa believed it would be a tightly fought contest.

“Both teams are pretty evenly matched. There are good players on both teams and there are characters on both teams, which is exciting for the game,” De Sa said.

“There have been players who have put their hands up and taken their game to another level. It’s exciting and it’s good for the game.

“When Chiefs and Pirates are on top it means South African football is pretty healthy.”

Baxter believed the key to victory in the derby encounter would be to brush aside the hype around the match and focus on the basics.

“On the day, it will be about who can peel away the drama, passion and emotion, and who can produce a performance, deal with setbacks on the day and maximise the opportunities they get,” Baxter said.

“That will decide the game. What people say about Chiefs and Pirates before and after will not decide anything.” – Sapa

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