JOHANNESBURG - The Nedbank Cup quarterfinals are upon us. Njabulo Ngidi looks at the four matches and what a win would mean for the eight teams involved.
Ubuntu Cape Town vs Free State Stars at Athlone Stadium, 3.30pm - Saturday
Ubuntu and Ea Lla Koto will come into this match looking to continue their fairytale run by progressing to the last four of the country’s premier cup competition and a spot in the Caf Confederation Cup. Despite their status as a professional team under threat, with the axe that would chop them to the amateur ranks in the ABC Motsepe League looming large, Ubuntu have produced two upsets to reach the last eight.
They stunned Polokwane City and AmaZulu in previous rounds to earn the tag of giant killers. But Ubuntu will find a tough nut to crack in Stars who are on a high as they look to register their best finish in the PSL-era. Stars are battling for a third-place finish with Maritzburg United, separated by just a point with six matches to go. A third-place finish and reaching the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup would be a dramatic turnaround for a team that normally fights to avoid relegation.
Prediction: Ubuntu Cape Town 2-3 Free State Stars
Maritzburg United vs Bloemfontein Celtic at Harry Gwala Stadium, 3.30pm - Saturday
The Team of Choice are also enjoying a remarkable run this season, sitting in third place and on the verge of reaching the semifinals for the second time in this campaign having also done so in the MTN8. Maritzburg owe their good run to the stellar job that’s being done by Fadlu Davids, who knows the club inside-out having captained it before serving as an assistant coach and eventually graduating to the head coach position.
Davids and his brother Maahier, who is the club’s assistant coach, have worked with a number of the players who have shone in the first team from a young age. The versatility and hunger of those players has pushed the Midlands side to sit in an unfamiliar position. They will fancy their chances against an inconsistent Celtic side that’s chasing a second cup final appearance after reaching that stage in the Telkom Knockout. A good cup run will ease the challenges faced by Celtic from their rough patch in the league.
Prediction: Maritzburg United 3-0 Bloemfontein Celtic
Kaizer Chiefs vs Baroka FC at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, 8.15pm - Saturday
This match could make or break Chiefs’ season with their chances of winning the league bleak. The Cup offers Amakhosi a chance to ensure that they don’t go three seasons without a trophy, something that’s unheard of for the country’s cup kings. Chiefs have looked like paupers under coach Steve Komphela, who started on a high by reaching two cup finals in his first season before fizzling out. Komphela is under heavy pressure to deliver a trophy at Amakhosi if he is to avoid his time at the club being just an uneventful footnote.
This is a tricky match for Chiefs as Bakgaga have had the club’s number, going back to the first time they met at this stage of the competition in 2011, with Bakgaga then an amateur side. But that didn’t stop Baroka from producing the biggest upset in this tournament’s history, knocking out Amakhosi in dramatic fashion. Chiefs beat Baroka for the first time in their last meeting earlier this year, in a match that saw Leonardo Castro announce his arrival in style with a goal that won the PSL Goal of the Month for January.
Prediction: Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 Baroka FC
Cape Town City vs Mamelodi Sundowns at Cape Town Stadium, 3pm - Sunday
The Citizens must be asking themselves who they pissed off to consistently get tough draws in this competition. The Cape side faced Bidvest Wits in the last 32 and Orlando Pirates in the last 16. What should give them confidence is that they outplayed both those teams to earn a place in the quarterfinals against a team they have troubled in the past. The Citizens beat Sundowns three times in a row before the Brazilians produced their first win.
This cup is City’s only shot at finishing the season with something while the Brazilians are chasing a double as they also sit at the summit of the league. This should be an entertaining match between teams who can put on a show, spiced up by the small rivalry that’s developing between them. The Brazilians will have one eye on the league as three days later they will take on Chippa United with the aim of keeping their No. 1 position.
Prediction: Cape Town City 0-1 Mamelodi Sundowns