Chiefs need three Cs to win title
Kaizer Chiefs are seven points clear of second-placed champions, Orlando Pirates, and are on course to break their eight-year title drought with six games to play.
Top Four Standings Played and Points
1 Kaizer Chiefs 24 51
2 Orlando Pirates 23 44
3 Platinum Stars 23 42
4 Bidvest Wits 23 33
Last season's top four finish:
1. Orlando Pirates 58; 2. Moroka Swallows 55; 3. SuperSport 53; 4.Sundowns 52
Remaining key fixtures:
With both 'Soweto derbies' out of the way - Chiefs drew 1-1 at home to Pirates in December and again the first match between the two giants was drawn 0-0 at the FNB Stadium last month -Amakhosi merely need to avoid a meltdown to secure the title.
Their trickiest-looking fixtures are at home against SuperSport on April 17 and at home to fellow title hopefuls Platinum Stars on April 28, the only team to beat Amakhosi in this league campaign so far. Ajax Cape Town, who need points to avoid relegation could also derail the Glamour Boys’ title hopes when they host them on 1 May.
Pirates still have a shout at the title with a game in hand having just played 23 games compared to Chiefs’ 24 matches. Relegation candidates Ajax Cape Town and Chippa United are key to the title race as they play hopefuls Pirates on April 10 and April 30 respectively. Also key to the Bucs’ hopes is Free State Stars, who have often surprised the Ghosts. The two meet at the Charles Mopedi Stadium on April 17.
Platinum Stars could challenge Pirates for second spot with the Bucs distracted by their bid for a second African Champions League title, which has eluded the club since they last won in in 1995. Should Dikwena upset log leaders again, then the title race might just be turned on its head and we could see it all going down to the wire.
The battle for top eight places and a berth in the MTN8 looks to be between Moroka Swallows, Bloemfontein Celtic and University of Pretoria, with Mamelodi Sundowns with an outside chance.
Chiefs began this title race like a house on fire and they haven’t been generous on goalkeepers banging a whopping 43 goals and conceding just 15, compared to their title rivals, Pirates, who have rattled the net 29 times and conceded 14 goals.
SuperSport United heach coach, Gavin Hunt once said that strikers will win you matches and defenders will win you titles as he pipped Pirates to the title by goal difference. As things stand, Chiefs have been good in defence and in front of goal - something which could work in their favour should the title be decided on goal difference.
Even after their slip up in Rustenburg when Platinum Stars beat them, Amakhosi showed their championship mettle as they rallied to beat Ajax 3-0 in the following game and went on to pull a comeback 1-1 draw against archrivals Pirates.
Chiefs are relying on the three Cs to lift the crown - Caution, Consistency and Cape Town. Throughout the season the Glamour Boys have been more consistent than the treble champions, Pirates, who have struggled to score goals as they did in the previous last two campaigns. Stuart Baxter has been criticised for being ‘defensive’, playing five defenders plus a defensive midfielder but the truth of the matter is that he is Cautious . His critics overlook his formation shifts from a 5-3-1-1 to a 3-5-2 when they attack, which makes them more dangerous. His style has been likened to that of Jose Mourhino who when he is defensive still gets results and wins titles.
Cape Town holds the key to the title honours with both Chiefs and Pirates set to travel to the coastal city to face Ajax. The Urban Warriors need points to survive the dreaded chop and the two Soweto giants too need the points to boost their title challenge. Results in those games will paint a clear picture of who the champions will be.
Can Pirates overturn the lead? It looks very difficult but it’s certainly possible. There is time like the present for the mighty Bucs to avenge the 2004/05 season heartbreak when Chiefs overturned their season-long lead in the last game of the season.
All the Bucs have to do is to take each game as it comes and, should they win their game in hand, that will reduce the gap to a mere four points, which could shake up Chiefs and cause them to slip up.
Benni McCarthy was key to helping the Bucs clinch the title last season as he scored the most important goals but this season he has been playing second fiddle to Collins Mbesuma. Benni is a winner, having played in Europe’s top leagues and having won the Uefa Champions League. His motivation is what the Bucs need to lift them up. When he is playing, Pirates become a different team.
With all that said, this league title is for Kaizer Chiefs to lose and for Orlando Pirates to defend.
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