Mixed fortunes ahead for Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns with tricky tests
JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns are on different sides of the coin when it comes to their league campaign. But both teams will be hoping to kick off their last lap of the season on a high note.
For match-day 16 in the league, Chiefs will host the resurgent AmaZulu at the FNB Stadium, while Sundowns, the champions, will be at home to Baroka FC at their base, the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, in matches that will kick off at 5pm today.
The two teams were at each other’s throats for the title last season. But Sundowns prevailed on the last day of the season. Chiefs can't seem to replicate last season’s form.
They are ninth on the standings with 18 points, 15 behind leaders Sundowns. The former’s poor form may be blamed on a transfer ban imposed by Fifa this season, but some pundits expected them to thrive under new coach Gavin Hunt.
After all, the 56-year-old coach has shown that he doesn’t need a big budget or a star-studded team to win trophies, having polished raw diamonds into superstars.
Chiefs once appeared to be going through a purple patch as they were unbeaten in five matches, before losing at home to Orlando Pirates and GladAfrica Championship side Richards Bay in the league and Nedbank Cup respectively in their last two matches.
Over the weekend, the Glamour Boys suffered a disruption to their schedule after their CAF Champions League group stage match was postponed. Hosts Wydad Casablanca opted for the game to be played in a neutral venue, given Chiefs are from South Africa which is a Covid-19 hotspot on the continent.
CAF had asked that the match be replayed on Friday in Cairo. But Chiefs have written to the mother body, saying that there are a “few impediments” that will make it impossible for them to honour the match. They have asked CAF for a new date.
In AmaZulu, Chiefs face a difficult opponent. Benni McCarthy's team have shown resurgence in their last six matches, with three wins and three draws. They shared the spoils with Swallows FC away from home on Sunday.
Sundowns, on the other hand, have dusted off their inconsistent run in January, winning their last three matches across all competitions – in the league, Nedbank Cup and Champions League – home and away as they kept alive the chances of winning a successive treble.
They defeated Al Hilal SC 2-0 in the Champions League at home on Saturday, but coach Manqoba Mngqithi was unhappy with his team’s finishing, saying their squad depth will enable them to regain their scoring touch.
Sundowns can’t underestimate Baroka, who have blown hot and cold this season. That’s why the striking department, led by top goalscorer Peter Shalulile who’s on nine goals after 19 matches, has to be potent.
Sundowns’ technical team will be happy that Kermit Erasmus scored the winning goal against the Sudanese giants, taking some pressure off Shalulile.
Defender Mosa Lebusa opened the scoring for the Brazilians. That players apart from the strikers are scoring, should ease the Sundowns coaching trio’s concerns.