Mon 12 Aug by Mark Gleeson
Coaches love the MTN8. It is the quickest route to a piece of silverware for the trophy cabinet and resultantly they rarely devote anything but firm intent to the competition.It takes only four games to win the trophy - a quarter-final tie, two legs in the semi-finals and then the final.Last year it was Benni McCarthy’s opportunity to give his fledgling career a boost with a trophy and he is now one of the favourites to be named Bafana Bafana coach.It was also the first trophy Pitso Mosimane won and has provided the likes of Muhsin Ertugral, Gavin Hunt and Gordon Igesund with some glory too.The last two finals have pitted Cape Town City against SuperSport United with both taking the trophy on post-match penalties - SuperSport in 2017 and the coastal club last year.They will both be back in the field again this year as the 2019 edition of the MTN8 gets underway at the weekend.Holders City have a home tie against Polokwane City, who compete in the top eight for the first time, but SuperSport United have a tough tie away at Bidvest Wits. Both games are set for Saturday.Champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates start as favourites for the competition, but go into the weekend’s game with the potential of being fatigued.Sundowns spent Sunday in the Congo to play in the African Champions League and then had to hurry back, courtesy of an expensive charter plane, to play in Port Elizabeth tomorrow night against Chippa United.It is the same for Pirates, who were in Zambia on Saturday and play in Nelspruit tomorrow against SuperSport United in the league.In the MTN8 quarter-finals, Pirates are home on Saturday to Highlands Park, who are a notoriously awkward opponent with their bang-it-forward style and hard physical approach to the game.And on Sunday Mosimane’s Sundowns take on Bloemfontein Celtic, who have caused them trouble on previous trips to Pretoria.There is always the potential for upsets as has been evidenced by Sundowns, particularly over the last years. With the upset results come handsome dividends as TAB soccer punters know all too well.
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