CAPE TOWN – With Champions League and Nedbank Cup commitments also to consider, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane would probably have liked just a little bit more breathing space at the top of the Absa Premiership table.
As the league season enters the final third, Sundowns (38 points from 20 matches), enjoy a five-point cushion over Orlando Pirates, who have played a game more.
Free State Stars (20 games, 32 points), Kaizer Chiefs and Cape Town City (both with 31 points from 20 games) are the other clubs still in with an outside chance of stopping the Brazilians.
Mosimane's Tshwane giants certainly hold the aces right now as they look to reclaim the domestic league title they won in 2015/16, but conceded to Bidvest Wits last season.
But any slip-ups and Pirates, Chiefs and City, who have all boosted their attack forces considerably in January, could come hunting Masandawana down. Free State Stars should not be counted out either, though it would certainly be an upset of Leicester-like proportions if the team from Bethlehem were to be crowned champions.
Sundowns have also made squad reinforcements and if New Zealand international Jeremy Brockie can brush off a slow start to rediscover the form he showed at SuperSport United, Masandawana could be unstoppable.
However, unlike their title rivals (with the exception of Cape Town City), Sundowns have to spread themselves a bit wider in the coming months as they get their CAF Champions League campaign underway, the long-distance travelling across the continent always likely to take its toll on a squad's fitness.
But what Sundowns have got going for them is a slightly easier looking run-in to the end of the season on the local front. Apart from their next game, when they host Free State Stars on February 21, Mosimane's men do not have to play any of the other sides in the top five.
Pirates on the other hand face Chiefs in a Soweto derby on March 3, and must also navigate fixtures against Cape Town City and Free State Stars. AmaKhosi play the Citizens in their next match, and also still face Pirates and Stars, meaning Sundowns might be able to sit back and watch as their rivals take points off each other.
It's certainly good for the local game when the Soweto giants are in the mix, but all taken into account, Sundowns remain firm favourites to reclaim the domestic title they've won a record seven times since the PSL's inception in 1996.
Instead, the race could be on for second spot, which brings the prize of Champions League football, and third position, which is rewarded with a place in the CAF Confederation Cup.
African News Agency (ANA)