Pirates, Chiefs face midfield battle
The battle in midfield will hold the key for Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in the highly-anticipated MTN8 cup final showdown at FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
Pirates, the defending champions, will rely on the diminutive pairing of Andile Jali and Oupa Manyisa who have developed a solid partnership in the last year.
Manyisa showed his form two weeks ago, scoring arguably this season's goal of the tournament with a long distance scorcher in the second leg of their semi-final against Mamelodi Sundowns.
Jali admitted they would need to shine if they were to topple their perennial rivals.
"We both have to play well in the midfield and win the important balls in centre of the park," Jali said.
Both players travelled with the national squad to Niger for Bafana Bafana's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier last weekend.
"I would like to think that we are well prepared and are ready mentally and physically for this match," Jali said.
Chiefs are also formidable in th midfield department, with the seasoned Tinashe Nengomasha having combined well with rookie Lucky Baloyi since the start of the campaign.
Amakhosi coach Vladimir Vermezovic said his players had won the midfield battle in derby clashes last season, but he expected another tough encounter.
"Jali was in trouble against Tinashe and (Reneilwe) Letsholonyane last season," Vermezovic said.
"I hope that it will be an excellent game on Saturday and one that the spectators will enjoy."
The cup final is the first of two derbies between the Soweto giants within a week, with Pirates and Chiefs set to clash in the Premiership next weekend.
Chiefs dominated last season when they played successive derbies -- in the league and the Telkom Knockout final -- by winning 3-1 and 3-0, and Amakhosi will hope for a repeat performance.
Pirates, however, scooped three titles last season and will be eager to prove their superb 2010/11 campaign was no fluke.
Chiefs go in search of an unprecedented 15th MTN8 title, while Pirates have lifted the trophy on seven occasions, including the first version back in 1972.
They are the only sides to have won back-to-back titles in the competition, which carries an R8 million cheque for the winners.