CAPE TOWN – If Cape Town City are to put an end to Mamelodi Sundowns’ impressive recent run of victories, then they are going to need another Herculean performance from midfield dynamo Roland Putsche.
The Capetonians take on the in-form Pretoria club in a PSL fixture at Loftus this evening (7.30pm kickoff) - and, with it being their final game before the festive season break, they are looking to finish the year off in style.
As it stands in the league, Sundowns are playing “catch me if you can” at the top on 28 points, followed by Kaizer Chiefs, Baroka FC and Free State Stars all on 22, City 21 and Orlando Pirates on 20 points.
The Cape side come off a 1-0 win over AmaZulu last Friday, and it was the impressive, inspirational Putsche who drove the team to victory. Not only did he net a late winning goal, but his overall industry and commitment were key to holding everything together. The 26-year-old from Klagenfurt trod every blade of grass, he tackled like a man possessed, passed, linked and controlled the pace and tempo of the game. Not surprisingly, the Austrian was afterwards named as the Man of the Match. Sometimes, as a football supporter, it’s tiring to just watch Putsche at work during the 90 minutes, such is the energy and indefatigable nature of his performances.
Putsche, of course, is a bit of a lucky charm for City, in that, when he arrived in the Mother City last year, he hadn’t come to play football. But he impressed during a trial for City, was signed, and has become one of the team’s most influential players.
By his own admission, he hasn’t been at his best this season - because of niggling injury concerns - but he’s been working hard to get back to full fitness and form. Last Friday, against AmaZulu, the very best of Putsche was again on show - and, with Sundowns looming, it’s come at just the right time.
“It hasn’t been my best season so far,” admitted Putsche. “I had a lot of small issues to deal with. But I’m feeling much better again, and I was glad to be able to start playing properly again. Against AmaZulu last Friday, I was just happy to be able to help the team a little.”
It’s no secret that, while Sundowns have great flair and creativity in their squad, it’s in central midfield where their real strength is based with the presence of diligent workhorses like Hlompho Kekana and Tiyani Mabunda. Because of this, Putsche’s role in the centre of the park is crucial if City are to get the better of Sundowns. In essence, whoever dominates this department will go on to win. If Putsche and his midfield partner, the equally tireless Thabo Nodada, prevent Kekana and Mabunda from taking charge of this area of the field, then half the battle is won.
Putsche loves the big occasion. His time spent playing football in Europe - where he’s also been involved in Europa League games - has prepared him for high-profile fixtures. He has admitted that he loves games against the PSL’s big guns, like Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Tonight is another opportunity for the amiable player to relish the spotlight, this time in a fixture that the rest of the title-challengers are hoping City can win.
Because if they fail to beat Sundowns, then, like Manchester City in England, the league championship is probably a fait accompli.
“Sundowns are in top form,” said Putsche.
“They have a lot of quality in the squad, there is no doubt about that. But, in my opinion, if we, at City, play to our highest level, we can beat any team in the PSL.
“So we are not going to Pretoria to deliver points to Sundowns so that they can run away with the league title, we are going there to collect the points.”