Cape sides looking to derail Soweto giants
JOHANNESBURG - The Cape Town versus Soweto double header in top-flight football this afternoon is blended with all the ingredients of having a strong say in the championship race - top three and top eight finish.
It’s been two weeks since the domestic season resumed in the Premier Soccer League (PSL). And to the delight of all stakeholders, “project restart” which commenced on August 8 has had an element of surprise on every match-day.
Today, there may be two league matches, but do expect some fireworks as Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates will serve the curtain-raiser at Loftus Versfeld Stadium (3:30pm kick-off).
Both teams still have a lot to play for in this season that has had twists and turns as City are hoping to consolidate a top-eight finish after a poor start, while the Sea Robbers have their eyes fixated on a top three finish which will guarantee continental football next season.
The Citizens are eighth on the Premiership standings with 33 points. However, such has been their resurgence that they’ve won three of their last four league matches, while the recent loss to neighbours Stellenbosch FC was due to complacency after their impressive run of form.
Coach Jan Olde Riekerink believes that the Citizens’ strength since the restart, which has seen them bag six points out of nine, has been the players’ ability to use each other’s qualities - hence the reinvigoration of stalwarts such as Kermit Erasmus, Bradley Ralani and Mduduzi Mdantsane.
However, their loss to Stellies proved that they are far from being a well-oiled machine, especially coming up against a Pirates’ side that’s searching for their first win in five matches, after four draws and a loss.
Pirates have a sound defensive unit after merely conceding two goals in those matches but their attacking contingent has been far from their best after managing only one goal - during their 1-1 draw with Baroka FC on Tuesday night.
The Sea Robbers’ coach Josef Zinnbauer has been modest about his team’s chances to challenge for the title but he’ll know that qualifying for the Caf Champions League or Confederation Cup, where they’ll need to finish second or third respectively, will serve as the ultimate consolation to The Ghost.
Pirates currently sit fifth on the standings with 43 points, nine and four behind leaders Kaizer Chiefs and second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who both have a game in hand. Amakhosi, however, will be hoping to capitalise on that game advantage when they clash with Stellies at Orlando Stadium today (6pm kick-off).
The Premiership leaders boast a five-point lead at the summit ahead of champions Sundowns who’ve had an underwhelming outing since the restart after drawing three league matches and losing one. Following their 3-1 defeat to Bloemfontein Celtic on Wednesday, Chiefs’ coach Ernst Middendorp reiterated that the title race will be decided on the last days of the season but he’s aware that bagging results along the way will bring them closer to the promised land.
Chiefs’ bid to return to winning ways will begin against Stellies, who’ve won their last two matches and are eyeing a top eight finish. And that’s why Chiefs’ coach Middendorp says they’ll have to be sharper than their last game.
“They are a team with a certain block, working in a defensive approach and countering from the back and skipping the midfield line. Again, they focus on one against one situations,” Middendorp said.
“The rest is something where we need to be clearly structured. It is very crucial to find the right way and corridor - and make the right decisions. We don’t only need fresh legs, but a fresh brain and mindset with players that are capable of making the right decisions.”