Eric Tinkler will be hoping to get the better of his KZN rivals as they look to keep their topflight status. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
THE KwaZulu-Natal derby between Maritzburg United and Royal Eagles is set to provide fireworks at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg today (3pm kick-off).

The two sides are squaring off against each other in the PSL promotional/relegation play-offs.

Eagles are in the driving seat after opening their account with a maximum points against Tshakhuma on Wednesday at Chatsworth Stadium in Durban. Mbulelo Wambi was the hero of the day with a match-winning strike.

Eagles will now be looking to make it two out of two and inch closer towards top flight football. But they will have to be at their level best to beat the Team of Choice. Maritzburg finished 15th on the log, relegating them into the play-offs. But they are no pushovers under the tutelage of Eric Tinkle,r especially at Harry Gwala.

The Team of Choice are a formidable force in their own territory. Only the top two in top flight football  Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates  managed to beat Maritzburg under the regime of Tinkler at Harry Gwala. Other teams like Polokwane City, Bloemfontein Celtic, AmaZulu, SuperSport United and Cape Town City all left KZN's capital city empty handed. So, Eagles must bring their A game if they want to win again.

Maritzburg have had the whole week to prepare for Eagles. They were present to witness their sworn rivals win on Wednesday at Chatsworth Stadium and took notes of that particular encounter.

The two teams have only met once in an official encounter. That was last year in the Nedbank Cup when Maritzburg defeated the Eagles 2-1 at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu. Eagles fought hard on the day but Maritzburg showed their superiority.

One mistake Maritzburg can’t afford to make is complacency. They need to approach the game like they are facing a PSL team. Fortune Makaringe will be key in the middle of the park while Eagles will rely on the pace of Levy Mashiane upfront to make things happen for them. Siyanda Xulu, Rushine Du Reuck and Brian Onyango all lack pace but are good readers of the game. Mashiane will be looking to take advantage.

The aerial battle between Judas Moseamedi and Philani Cele will be an interesting duel. The Team of Choice are using a lot of width under Tinkler and Moseamedi has profited from quality crosses on the flanks. Eagles will be out to close down supply and make sure Moseamedi doesn’t get the room to jump high and head the ball.

@minenhlecr7


Sunday Independent

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