Sundowns toughest test yet for United

2012-08-31 00:00

IT has been a solid start to the PSL season for Ernst Middendorp and his Maritzburg United squad, but the Team of Choice will have their toughest test so far this campaign when they travel to Atteridgeville for a date with Mamelodi Sundowns on Sunday.

United have accumulated four points from their opening two fixtures, while Sundowns were beaten by Kaizer Chiefs last week after they scraped past Chippa United in the season opener to remain on three points.

It hasn’t been a convincing start to the season for coach Johan Neeskens and his team, but Sundowns will start Sunday’s affair as overwhelming favourites.

Middendorp has emphasised his intent to see attacking football this season, but how much attacking United will be able to do against a side that prides itself on keeping the ball remains to be seen. For United defender Mario Booysen, a point out of the game would be considered a success.

“We need to be realistic,” he told The Witness yesterday. “We will be playing for the three points, but it is one of the more difficult games that we will play this season and if we can get a draw then we will be satisfied.”

Booysen joined United from SuperSport United at the start of the season, and says he has slotted in well into the side’s setup, forming a strong understanding with his centre back partner Mohamed Awal.

“The side is made up of very experienced guys and I know some of them already so it has been easy for me to adapt,” said Booysen. “The relationship with Mohamed [Awal] is good and the understanding and combination between us will continue to grow the more we play together.”

Good news for Middendorp is that he has a fully fit squad of players at his disposal. While his back four have remained unchanged in the opening two fixtures, defenders Byrone Hendricks and Rheece Evans will be knocking furiously on the selection door after playing most of last season.

In central midfield, Michael Morton is certain to start, while Middendorp has the option of playing Mario’s younger brother David Booysen alongside him.

Bringing the experience of Delron Buckley, who was outstanding in United’s first two fixtures, into the centre of the park, is also an option that Middendorp might consider.

Up front, Cuthbert Malajila will look to continue his impressive PSL goal-scoring run. The Zimbabwean bagged two goals in last week’s home win over AmaZulu and will have fond memories of scoring the winner in last season’s 1-0 victory over Sundowns at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.

But, taking on the Brazilians at Lucas Moripe stadium is never an easy task, and United will have to be at their best defensively if they are to come back to the Midlands with anything to show for their efforts. Sunday’s match kicks off at 3 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

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