JOHANNESBURG – When there are goals, entertaining football and so much at stake, it’s not that difficult to hype up a Soweto Derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
A fixture that has repeatedly been criticised for lacking the goals to match the crowds it attracts returns this Saturday at the FNB Stadium.
Here we look at three key areas Micho Sredojevic of Pirates and Giovanni Solinas, his Amakhosi opposite number, can pin their hopes on for those three precious Absa Premiership points.
It’s often said that this counts for naught during the Soweto Derby, but there has to be room made for how the two teams currently fare should be taken into account.
When Pirates thrashed Chiefs 3-1 in the corresponding fixture last season, they were arguably the best team in the league behind eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns – and it wasn’t difficult to see why that day.
After 10 matches so far, the Buccaneers in second from the top and have two points more than their bitter rivals.
Chiefs have drawn and lost their last two league matches, putting pressure on a coach whose side hasn’t won this fixture in the league for three seasons now.
Chiefs worked incredibly hard in the final weeks of the transfer window in August to bolster a side that has underachieved over the last three years.
With Khama Billiat already signed, the arrival of Lebo Manyama and Mario Booysen, although not a starter, sent a statement of intent this season.
Pirates on the other hand were quick off the blocks, signing nine new players before they could even begin pre-season for the coach to have a chance to work with all of them that early.
Vincent Pule has been the stand-out player out of all the new arrivals, and will carry their hopes in the derby for sure.
There could be a potential debut for Brilliant Khuzwayo, the goalkeeper who left Chiefs at the end of the previous season to join Soweto rivals Pirates with the hope that he would finally get the No 1 jersey.
But an injury during pre-season has held him back – until now.
While Solinas is still looking for his first big scalp as Amakhosi coach, his Buccaneers counterpart Sredojevic has long established his credibility following his return to the South African Premier League last season.
And the derby victory in his maiden campaign as well immediately thrust them back among the title contenders this season, although that should go without saying given the stature of the club.
Solinas has asked time to have an even bigger influence at Chiefs, but the three trophyless seasons unfortunately mean there’s no room for error.
Sredojevic has also raised expectations, not wanting to entertain any title talk last season, but making promising this time around.
A win in the derby is more than just bragging rights for these two coaches.