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Football | Absa Premiership

PLK, Wits set for relegation six-pointer



Polokwane City and Bidvest Wits will meet for an Absa Premiership ‘relegation six-pointer’ at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.

Kick-off is at 3.30pm CAT (SA, GMT+2)

City come into the match having been beaten 1-0 at home by Platinum Stars in midweek, a result which saw them drop to third from bottom on the log, just one point above basement dwellers Wits and Ajax.

The Limpopo side have gone four league matches without a win and have yet to claim a three-pointer from seven home games this season. All this piles the pressure on coach Bernard Molekwa and his charges as Rise and Shine prepare to welcome the champions.

Yet the Clever Boys have even less to shout about. Their goalless draw at home to Ajax Cape Town in midweek kept them rooted to the bottom of the standings and extended their winless run in the league to four matches - a sequence in which they have not managed to score a single goal.

Gavin Hunt’s men may have won the Telkom Knockout last weekend, but the trophy will serve as little comfort if they go to the festive-season break sitting at the bottom of the log - especially as defending champions.

Yet the compacted nature of the log this season (just nine points separates top from bottom) means that a run of two or three wins on the bounce would see a team surge up the standings - something both City and Wits will be aiming for through the rest of December.

In head-to-head stats, Polokwane and Wits have met in eight league matches since 2013/14. The Clever Boys have claimed four wins compared to one for Rise and Shine, while three matches have been drawn. The Limpopo side has yet to win a home match against the Johannesburg club, with two draws and two losses from four games as hosts.

Last season Wits took four points off Polokwane, holding them 0-0 in Limpopo in the first half of the campaign, before claiming a 2-0 win at home in the return game in Johannesburg.

The Clever Boys are unbeaten in their last five matches against Rise and Shine, scoring nine goals and conceding just one in the process.

PREVIOUS STARTING XIs

Polokwane’s line-up from their 1-0 loss to Stars on December 6: Chigova, Maponyane, Tshilo, Semenya, Hlongwane, Seabi, W. Maluleke, J. Maluleke (Musona 64’), Ndou, Tlolane, Ramagalela.

Wits’ line-up from their 0-0 draw with Ajax on December 6: Keet, Hlanti, Hlatshwayo, Mkhwanazi, Frosler, Scott, Claasen (Monare 46'), Motshwari, Pule (Klate 60'), Mhango (Keene 70'), Gamal.

WHAT THE TEAMS ARE SAYING

POLOKWANE CITY COACH BERNARD MOLEKWA

“We have still not won a home game, and the loss to Platinum Stars [in midweek] was a disappointing result. It is another battle against a team at the bottom of the table and we have to put in maximum effort to claim all three points.

“Wits are at the bottom of the log but we won’t underestimate them, they are still a strong team.”

BIDVEST WITS COACH GAVIN HUNT

“There were three points tonight [in the 0-0 draw with Ajax] wasn’t it? I mean the chances we are missing and the final pass was poor, so it is disappointing.

“We are not scoring. We've managed to keep a couple of clean sheets in a row but we are not scoring. Against Cape Town City, plenty of chances... penalties... crazy. So we have to keep going and trying to keep believing and take chances.

“You can't miss the chances we are missing, it's crazy. Something has to fall for you. We are playing without a fear trying to score. Goal line tap-in but we can't convert them.”

POLOKWANE KEY PLAYERS

Rodney Ramagalela - Since scoring three games in succession through September and October, striker Rodney Ramagalela has failed to hit the back of the net in his last two matches for Polokwane. He nevertheless remains a potent threat due to his pace and athleticism, and Wits’ defence will have to be at their best to keep him quiet.

Jabu Maluleke - Wits boast some of the league’s best midfielders, but they’ll have their work cut out to keep tabs on veteran Jabu Maluleke, who remains Polokwane’s creative force through the engine room. The 35-year-old is deadly from set pieces near the penalty area and will look to get the better of goalkeeper Darren Keet on Saturday.

WITS KEY PLAYERS

Amr Gamal - After an impressive start to his time with Wits, the goals have dried up for Egyptian striker Amr Gamal. The North African hasn’t scored in the league since the 1-1 draw with Kaizer Chiefs in mid-September, but his drought is more a symptom of Wits’ general attacking malaise than any personal failing on his part. Nonetheless, Gamal will be anxious to resume scoring form as soon as possible.

Thulani Hlatshwayo - In times of crisis, teams look to their leaders and most experienced players for inspiration. Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo is one of the men who must step up and ensure that the Clever Boys shrug off their poor league form and get back on track with a win in Polokwane this weekend.



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