Cape Town City have nothing to lose and everything to gain from their Premiership clash with top-of-the-table Orlando Pirates at Athlone Stadium today (3pm kickoff), the corresponding fixture having ended goalless.
Fourth-placed City (47 points) are mathematically in the title race, being six points off the pace with six to play for.
Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns are deadlocked at the top of the table on 53 points, with the Buccaneers ahead of the Brazilians on goal difference of plus four.
Former pacesetters Wits round off the podium a point behind Bucs and Sundowns, and cannot be ruled out of contention if they can close out their campaign with consecutive victories and the top two drop points in their final two outings.
Pirates come to the Mother City having not beaten City in four attempts, losing three times with one draw.
A double defeat last season included a league loss that ended their hopes for a first league success since completing a double in 2011/12.
City have shown this season that the bigger the challenge, the better they play – illustrated by come-from-behind league victories over Wits and Sundowns earlier in the year, and the 1-0 away win over Kaizer Chiefs.
That result was head coach Benni McCarthy’s first win over Amakhosi.
While McCarthy has ruled his side out of the running for a maiden title, his charges will love nothing more than to dent Pirates’ chances of going all the way, and will be motivated to do so in their final home game.
“It’s a big game, an important game for both camps, and with home advantage, all we are really after is the three points,” said City assistant coach Vasili Manousakis.
“Pirates play some really good football, with good speed, and are very fast with their transition going forward because of all their attacking players, so it’s going to be a tough game.
“For us, it’s all about working together as a unit.
“Collectively the team has to defend together, attack together, stay nice and close, and keep good space between the lines, and if we do that, then everyone will be heroes at the end of the day.”
City’s defence is going to be tested, meaning big roles for experienced backs Thami Mkhize and tough-as-nails Taariq Fielies.
Captain Mkhize has been City’s top player this season and was rewarded with a recall to the national team, while Fielies is never shy to get stuck in keeping out any threats on goal.
IMPORTANT NOTICE ‼️‼️— Cape Town City FC (@CapeTownCityFC) May 4, 2019
Please note that tickets of our final game at home against Orlando Pirates is sold out. If you don't have a ticket you're not allowed near stadium precinct, watch the game on TV (SABC 1 and SS4).
Gates open at 13H00
TICKET ESANDLENI #NoTicketNoEntry pic.twitter.com/ZgqoVCZ1go
Going forward, utility player Thato Mokeke, who rejoined City from Chippa United during the January transfer window on a two-year deal, has produced a number of Man-of-the-Match performances in midfield, and must be close to making it back into the Bafana Bafana fold.
Veteran midfielder Teko Modise has partnered with Mokeke, and it remains to be seen whether McCarthy gives the 36-year-old a run-on start against one of his former clubs.
Shane Martin, who came off the bench to replace Modise and score his first goal for the club during last week’s 2-0 win over Chippa United, could be the surprise package if picked.
City do have an array of attack-minded players who have scored multiple goals. Siphelele Mthembu is set to lead the charge as the lone striker, but the big fellow with seven goals to his name hasn’t threatened to add to his tally in recent times.
Chris David is another roaming forward who can turn the game at the drop of a hat, while down the flanks, the likes of Gift Links, Surprise Ralani, Craig Martin and Riyaad Norodien have been used by McCarthy and scored crucial goals.