Regardless of their positions on the log table, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns’ clash is a must-watch in the DStv Premiership today at 3pm.
Games between the cross-town rivals always attract huge interest and you would be crazy to deny that this weekend’s meeting doesn’t carry additional importance.
While Sundowns lead the PSL standings, Pirates are placed fourth with nine points fewer. Both teams have each played 23 league matches.
With seven matches to go, this could be a make-or-break encounter, especially for the hosts at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
Unfortunately, the game comes just a few days after Pirates’ return from Nigeria, where they lost 1-0 to Enyimba on Wednesday.
The Buccaneers only arrived back in Johannesburg on Friday morning and went straight into camp ahead of the clash.
But after dropping seven points in their past three matches, the pressure is on Sundowns to get back to winning ways. The Brazilians were held to goalless draws by Golden Arrows and AmaZulu, and surrendered their unbeaten run to Kaizer Chiefs last weekend.
However, Sundowns should be worried about their inability to convert their chances in front of goal after scoring only once in those three matches. As a result, they have allowed the chasing pack to close the gap at the top.
With AmaZulu hovering closely behind the defending champions, the Brazilians go into today’s clash hoping to grab all three points, which would take them even closer to retaining their title.
Today’s match comes just two weeks after Sundowns thrashed the Soweto giants 4-1 in the Nedbank Cup quarterfinal, so Pirates will have nothing but revenge on their mind this afternoon.
But Sundowns are more favoured to repeat what they did a fortnight ago. While the Buccaneers have been blowing hot and cold, Sundowns co-coach Rhulani Mokwena said they were not reading much into their opponents’ inconsistent form.
Mokwena was confident his team would get through the difficult period they’re currently enduring.
“Sundowns have been here before, and the players have the experience to deal with such hardships. We knew this was going to happen,” said Mokwena ahead of this afternoon’s clash.
“There is no perfect season. We would be very naïve to think – when we were sitting in a position with 21 games unbeaten in the domestic league – we were going to have a perfect season,” he said.
“The season being as difficult as it is, strange as it is, the difficulties we have had along the way only prepared us to try to navigate our way through and get to the finishing line as successfully as possible. That is the responsibility we have as Mamelodi Sundowns.”
He said they were aware of what to expect against his former side. Pirates will be relying on the likes of Tshegofatso Mabasa, who has been a live wire recently.
But it will all depend on how coach Josef Zinnbauer picks his team. The German mentor has been accused of fiddling with his team and seems unsure about his starting line-up.
Top of Zinnbauer’s mind will be how to stop Sundowns from humiliating Pirates again. The drubbing is still fresh in the supporters’ minds and only a win will vanquish those memories.
If they fail to get maximum points, they may as well forget about winning the championship.
Time is no longer on their side as they are quickly running out of matches.