For City, in their quest to win the PSL title, every game, at this stage, is a can’t-lose situation. Like last week, when they earned a draw against fellow-contenders Wits, the point was satisfactory, as long as they didn’t lose. Against Chiefs on Tuesday- and the Soweto club also has its sights on the championship - the scenario is no different. City will endeavour to win - but, if they can’t, it’s crucial that they don’t lose. Because the top four are so evenly-matched, and in close proximity with regard to points, none of the teams can afford to lose ground to a title rival.
City top the standings with with 46 points, followed by Wits 45, Kaizer Chiefs 45 and Mamelodi Sundowns 42 - but, against Chiefs, in the cauldron of the former World Cup venue in Green Point, the Cape side has an opportunity to make a huge title statement. Win this one, and especially if Ajax can do their neighbours a favour by taking points off Sundowns at Loftus, then it could well be advantage City.
City coach Eric Tinkler, though, has no such grandiose thoughts. The only thing that matters to him is the next game - Chiefs - and that is the message he’s sending out to his squad. Don’t focus too far in the future, don’t be side-tracked by all the title-talk, just concentrate on the game at hand, nothing else.
“There’s still a lot that has to happen before the season ends,” said Tinkler. “We don’t plan ahead, the focus remains on the next game. After last week’s draw with Wits, we think of the next one, Chiefs. The aim is not to put pressure on the players It’s about taking every game as it comes.”
For Chiefs, coach Steve Komphela’s top priority is to get his players mentally prepared. The squad, no doubt, is a bit down after being bundled out of the Nedbank Cup at the weekend - losing 5-3 on penalties to SuperSport United. Komphela’s task is to get them fired up and ready for what is certain to be an all-action, tactical clash with City.
Chiefs, in fact, had an opportunity to win the quarter-final against SuperSport, but Bernard Parker missed a penalty during extra-time. And that’s something that will further weigh on the team collectively, which is why the Chiefs coach will certainly have to earn his salary with the preparation and motivational chat ahead of the City game.
Meanwhile, over at Ajax, at least, there is a sense that things are starting to turn. After a home win against Highlands Park and an away draw with Golden Arrows, it’s looking a lot better for coach Stanley Menzo.
And the Ajax coach is demanding even more improvement from his team when they face Sundowns.
“The last time, against Arrows, I was very proud with the way we played,” said Menzo. “I hope we can continue this upward trend because I believe this team can do much better. The threat of relegation is still around, so the players are motivated for this Sundowns match. We want to get out of this situation we are in and move up the PSL log.”
They face Sundowns without suspended Nathan Paulse.