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Sundowns home and dry, but top eight and survival spots still up for grabs

Ernst Middendorp’s Maritzburg United have it all to play for as the DStv Premiership season draws to a close. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Ernst Middendorp’s Maritzburg United have it all to play for as the DStv Premiership season draws to a close. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published May 13, 2022

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Johannesburg — Mamelodi Sundowns will head to the penultimate round of the DStv Premiership season as the only team that has fulfilled their targets for the campaign, with the top three, top eight and survival spots still up for grabs.

The Brazilians enjoyed yet another fruitful outing in the office as they bagged their record fifth title in a row — and 12th in total since the inception of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) 26 years ago.

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Credit duly goes to the entire club, especially the coaches and players as they are the personnel who do the hard yards. But in the midst of the euphoria that has engulfed the club, Sundowns are still eager to finish the campaign on a high.

The Brazilians could finish the season with 68 points, one point better than last season, if they win their last two matches against Stellenbosch FC at home this afternoon and away to runners-up hopefuls Royal AM next Saturday.

Winning the two matches will not only tighten Sundowns’ grip at the top of the standings but it will aid in their preparations for the Nedbank Cup final where they’ll clinch a domestic treble if they beat defending champions Marumo Gallants.

The Brazilians also claimed the MTN8 earlier this season. And that’s all thanks to the depth within the squad given that a number of players raised their hands whenever they were called upon by coaching trio Rulani Mokwena, Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela.

However, the local-based club that will join Sundowns in the CAF Champions League next season is yet to be confirmed, with as many as four outfits, Cape Town City, Royal AM, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, still in the running.

It’s City who have the advantage though. The Cityzens are second and three points ahead of Royal AM who have a game in hand. They’ll be eager to extend their lead when they face AmaZulu this afternoon, while Royal AM cannot afford to slip up against Golden Arrows as well.

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City might have burst into life in the final stretch of the season as they remain the only unbeaten team in the league this year, but Thwihli Thwahla have battled in crunch time as they are winless in their last four matches in all competitions.

The two Soweto giants, Chiefs and Pirates, have struggled with inconsistency as well, hence not many punters will bet on them to finish in the top two — although they could still qualify for Confederation Cup if they finish third.

Consistency is key in crunch. And Chiefs have struggled in this regard, with interim coach Arthur Zwane, who replaced the sacked Stuart Baxter due to poor results, failing to hit the ground running.

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Finishing in the top three three is not a priority for all the 16 teams in the top-flight, unlike finishing in the top-eight. But as things stand, only the top 11 teams could still play in the MTN8 next season.

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The 11th-placed Gallants and 10th-placed Sekhukhune United are joint on 32 points, five ahead of the eighth-place dwellers SuperSport United. So should SuperSport win their game against Baroka this afternoon, Gallants and Sekhukhune will be out of the race.

Meanwhile, the guillotine could still fall on as many five places at the bottom of the standings, Maritzburg United, Chippa United, TS Galaxy, Swallows and Baroka.

But it is the 15th-placed Swallows and bottom-place dwellers Baroka that are mostly tipped to go down, although one of the teams could still save their elite status via the promotion/relegation play-off matches, with the draw set to be done on Sunday.

@Mihlalibaleka

IOL Sport

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