Five crucial games to watch when PSL season resumes
DURBAN - As “Project Restart” nears in South African football, the identity of the new home venues for the 32 PSL clubs in the “bio bubble” in Gauteng were unveiled yesterday during a draw at the league’s headquarters.
The remaining fixtures in the 2019-20 season will remain the same as initially planned, while new dates and kickoff times are yet to be confirmed.
The two Nedbank Cup semi-finals will restart proceedings next Saturday, while three days later, the leagues - the Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship - will resume.
The new arrangements will bring a new directive for the rest of the season, and that’s why below football writer MIHLALI BALEKA looks at five must-watch matches that will be hosted at some of the iconic stadiums.
ORLANDO STADIUM - KAIZER CHIEFS (H) V MAMELODI SUNDOWNS (A)
Home to nemesis Orlando Pirates, Chiefs will be hoping Orlando will be good to them considering it was the same venue that gave birth to the club. Chiefs chairman Kaizer Motaung had recently left Pirates before forming Amakhosi in 1970.
Chiefs’ homecoming couldn’t have come at a better time considering that they are top of the league standings, and they still have to welcome champions and second-placed Sundowns, who have a game in hand, to where it all started.
DOBSONVILLE STADIUM - SUNDOWNS (H) V ORLANDO PIRATES (A)
Sundowns will be at “home”, but with merely nine kilometres between Orlando and Dobsonville, Pirates will feel more at home when the two clubs clash.
Pirates will be out to prove that their win over fellow title hopefuls, Sundowns, was no fluke earlier in the season in Soweto - especially after Downs were becoming too comfortable with the trip from Chloorkop to Orlando in recent seasons.
ELLIS PARK - PIRATES (H) V WITS (A)
Mathematically both teams are still in the title race, considering Pirates are eight points behind leaders Chiefs, and Wits, who have a game in hand, trail by 10.
Wits this season have proven to be good travellers, after bagging more points on the road than at Bidvest Stadium. But Pirates will be hoping their profound history at Ellis Park will inspire them to consolidate their impressive record at home under Josef Zinnbauer this season.
In Doornfontein, Pirates have had some good and bad memories, which may include the death of 43 supporters during the Soweto derby in 2001, but they’ll be hoping that they can build on the good going into the future.
FNB STADIUM - WITS (H) V CHIEFS (A)
Set to be one of the most thrilling fixtures during the opening round of the restart of the league season, Chiefs will be returning to their home venue - where they’ll be away - hoping to dent Wits’ aspirations of chasing for the championship.
Granted the Clever Boys will be rebranded next season after their status was sold to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, they’ll be looking for a proper send-off. And that’s why being based at FNB Stadium could be a suitable platform.
After all, it was at the same venue where their title coronation, after a 96-year-wait, took place three seasons ago, while they’ve had a fair amount of success when they made the trip from Braamfontein to Soweto in recent seasons.
LUCAS MORIPE STADIUM - MARITZBURG UNITED (H) V SUNDOWNS (A)
The Team of Choice have been one of the most exciting and rejuvenated teams this season, especially with their enterprising football when they welcomed clubs to Harry Gwala Stadium on a Friday.
But their resilience and quick adaptation will be put to the test during the resumption of the season as they’ll host visiting teams at Atteridgeville - hundreds of kilometres away from Pietermaritzburg.
It should be interesting to see how they’ll handle Sundowns, who have made the Lucas Moripe Stadium their slaughterhouse since dominating local and continental football under coach Pitso Mosimane.