On form Bucs host Downs

2008-02-20 00:00

Orlando Pirates will host Mamelodi Sundowns at the Johannesburg Stadium tonight in what promises to be the pick of the midweek Absa PSL fixtures.

The Buccaneers have begun the second half of the 2007/08 season in fine form, defeating Soweto rivals Moroka Swallows 3-0 just under a week ago and following that up with a 2-0 win over high-flying BidVest Wits on Saturday evening.

But Owen Da Gama’s team will now face a stiff test of their credentials from the defending champions.

Sundowns defeated AmaZulu in the first league match of 2008 last Monday, then followed that up with a 1-0 away win against Miembeni in their MTN CAF Champions League first round, first leg tie last Friday.

The rigours of travelling may be a worry for Brazilians’ coach Gordon Igesund, but he will be happy with the return to form of Surprise Moriri, who scored against Miembeni.

Moriri will be key to Sundowns’ hopes of claiming a third straight championship and his battle with red hot Pirates playmaker Teko Modise could make for thrilling football.

It was around this time last year that Sundowns set off on their remarkable winning streak that all but handed them the title; a defeat of Pirates would spark hopes of a repeat performance in this campaign.

Statistics point to the visitors from Pretoria having the advantage, with the Brazilians having a better head-to-head record (played 46, won 21, drawn 12, lost 13) in league meetings with Pirates since 1985.

•Ajax Cape Town will be favourites to maintain their place at the top of the table when they welcome Thanda Royal Zulu to Athlone Stadium.

Ajax came through a difficult away match against Black Leopards on Saturday, coming from behind to win 2-1 thanks to Nathan Paulse’s double.

That result, in conjunction with Wits’ 2-0 defeat to Orlando Pirates, saw Ajax move clear at the head of the Absa Premiership.

But with SuperSport United just two points behind, Craig Rosslee’s team cannot afford to slip up at home to Thanda Royal Zulu, a team they defeated 2-1 earlier in the season.

•Wits are looking to secure a league “double” over Kaizer Chiefs when they welcome the struggling glamour club to the BidVest Stadium this evening.

A Noah Chivuta penalty handed the Clever Boys a 1-0 away win over the Amakhosi earlier in the season and they will surely be confident of taking another three points off Muhsin Ertugral’s misfiring side.

The lack of confidence in Chiefs’ ranks was all to apparent in their goalless draw away to Jomo Cosmos on Sunday.

The men in gold and black, like Ezenkosi, missed some glorious scoring chances and needed a fine display of goalkeeping from Itumeleng Khune to spare them a defeat against the bottom-placed club.

•SuperSport United aim to keep up the pressure on Ajax Cape Town when they take on basement club Jomo Cosmos at the Super Stadium.

Gavin Hunt’s team have been in excellent form since recovering from a difficult first couple of months of the season and must now be considered one of the favourites for the championship.

They moved into second place at the weekend after their 1-0 win away to Thanda Royal Zulu and are now a mere two points off the leaders’ pace.

•Moroka Swallows will look to recover from their embarrassing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Orlando Pirates when they host Santos at Olen Park this afternoon. The Birds were humbled at home by their Soweto rivals last week and were left to stew over the result at the weekend as they were not in action.

•Bragging rights will be at stake when Free State Stars host Bloemfontein Celtic in a Premiership derby at the Charles Mopeli Stadium this afternoon. These teams played to a 1-1 draw in early September last year and once again a hard fought and evenly contested encounter is expected in the Free State derby.

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