Mon 11 Jan by Mark Gleeson
Mamelodi Sundowns’ defence of the PSL title faces stiff examination this weekend in the derby against SuperSport United, but the vagaries of the fixture list have handed the champions a distinct advantage. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Sundowns’ credentials were being tested against Orlando Pirates. They came through that game with a 1-0 success and have since beaten Baroka FC away to consolidate their lead at the top of the DStv Premiership. SuperSport at Atteridgeville is their next challenge and given how well their neighbours have been doing, it will be a solid test of their status as the top dogs of the local game. Sundowns often find it tough against SuperSport, but have won three of the past five Tshwane derbies. On Saturday they should be fancied again because the Premier Soccer League has SuperSport down to play tonight against Bloemfontein Celtic, while Sundowns have been left to rest. To be fair Sundowns should also be playing because today’s fixtures are in order for clubs still involved in African club competitions not to fall behind with their domestic fixtures. SuperSport must play because of Celtic’s involvement in the African Confederation Cup. But Sundowns are not playing, even though they have African Champions League group games coming up. This inconsistency does not do the credibility of the PSL any favours. There are also crunch games for second-placed, and still unbeaten, Swallows FC at Baroka on Saturday and two testing games for injury-plagued Kaizer Chiefs. They are away at AmaZulu tonight and travel again to play Cape Town City on Saturday. They could be in the relegation zone by the end of the weekend.
MISSING: Kaizer Chiefs have Willard Katsande, Lebogang Manyama and Mulomowandau Mathoho doubtful for their coastal trips this week.
BACK IN ACTION: Gaston Sirino got on the pitch for 30 minutes at the weekend to mark his first appearance of the new season for Sundowns after a protracted transfer dispute. He had wanted to go to Al Ahly in Egypt to join ex-coach Pitso Mosimane, but negotiations fell through.
WHO’S HOT: Thamsanqa Gabuza’s double inside the first five minutes for SuperSport United at TS Galaxy at the weekend underlined the potential of the strike partnership with Bradley Grobler. The pair looks well suited with Grobler feeding off the forceful Gabuza, but it has taken longer than expected to get the partnership going.
WHO’S COLD: Gavin Hunt feared for his job when he started at SuperSport United but after a horror beginning he went on to win the title three seasons in a row. How he must be harking back to those days as he battles at the helm of Kaizer Chiefs in their worst-yet start to a season.