Banana skins and derby delight
I felt Platinum Stars showed real character to come back from two goals down against AmaTuks on Sunday. For me that game epitomised the fighting spirit they have shown all season.
The Crocodiles from Rustenburg deserve credit for having all but entrenched the third spot. Coach Cavin Johnson keeps things simple, is well organised and plays a structured game. He is a real players’ coach and works on the mental side of the game with his charges.
For me, Platinum Stars have done exceptionally well to hold down third spot but to be honest I can’t see them winning the league this season. While nothing is impossible with as many as ten league games to go, it does look like a two-horse race.
While Kaizer Chiefs are still in pole position on the Absa Premiership standings, Amakhosi missed a great the chance to extend their lead over the weekend. However, one must give full credit to Wits, who came out a different team after their drubbing in the previous encounter. Chiefs took a good while to get into the game and full credit to Wits who rattled their more vaunted opponents.
Chiefs travel down to Cape Town to meet Chippa United in a midweek clash that pits top versus bottom. In spite of that statistic it will be a tough game for Chiefs as Chippa are fighting for survival.
I was quite surprised to see they have added a former Manchester City striker to their arsenal. The last time the Zimbabwean played in the PSL was for Cosmos in 2001. He will find that teams are now much harder to break down, defences are more organised and players are fitter than before.
On paper, it looks like any easy game for Chiefs but the Glamour Boys must be mindful of not falling into the trap of approaching the game half-heartedly with the Soweto derby in sight.
I feel Orlando Pirates face an even tougher assignment against Bloemfontein Celtic, having returned from their travels to the Comoros. That said, Pirates will be buoyed by playing at home and sound in the knowledge that Celtic are notoriously poor travellers.
There is no doubt the midweek games are potential six-pointers for Soweto’s fiercest rivals. As a player it’s tough not to have one eye on Saturday’s clash at the FNB Stadium when it’s the topic on everyone’s lips this week but the players are professionals and have to conduct themselves accordingly.
With Chiefs and Pirates holding down first and second place on the table, it certainly adds even more spice to the fixture. However, it’s always a huge game and the fact that it would be beamed all over the world is testament to that.
While Pirates have had the upper-hand in the Soweto derby in recent times, I feel Chiefs go into the game with more momentum.
One of Chiefs’ main strengths is their versatile strike force. In this regard Pirates have really struggled of late in the absence of Benni McCarthy. If the Champions League-winner is fit for the derby it will certainly add another element to the game.
I expect both sides to employ the standard 4-4-2 formation. Stuart Baxter has experimented with a 3-5-2 formation at times this season, which has delivered mixed results.
Pirates have undoubtedly missed the calming influence of Siyabonga Sangweni at the back and for me Chiefs’ back four has a more stable look to it.
While I believe Chiefs have the upper-hand in defence and in the final third, I expect the midfield battle to be evenly balanced.
Taking everything into account I’m backing Chiefs to win the Soweto derby 2-0 on Saturday.
Sunday’s big derby sees SuperSport United host Sundowns. The rivalry between former colleagues Gavin Hunt and Pitso Mosimane should be interesting.
SuperSport’s biggest problem this season has been their inability to score goals and they are not aided by the fact that their former striker, Anthony Laffor, is now in enemy territory.
Turning to ‘Downs it didn’t take much for Mosimane to get the quality of players at his disposal organised and heading in the right direction. He has brought a change in attitude and approach.
It’s always a close game between the two sides, so I see this encounter ending in a draw.