Plenty of surprises in Absa Premiership race

Luc Eymael (Gallo Images)
Luc Eymael (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - With 21 points to play for, the final stretch of the Absa Premiership campaign promises to be explosive for most of the clubs.

By the time Mamelodi Sundowns play their next game, a lot may have happened at the top. The log leaders are not scheduled to play any league matches until next month, when they host Chippa United.

By then, they could have been overtaken by Orlando Pirates, who will be on top if they beat Golden Arrows at the weekend and win their protest against Ajax Cape Town, resulting in six points.

While the Brazilians take care of their continental involvement, others will be sweating it out in the league campaign.

But Sundowns will be keeping one eye on the proceedings in the league, particularly the case involving Ajax Cape Town striker Tendai Ndoro and his eligibility to play, which could have an impact on the log standings. The case is set to be heard on March 26.

Title race

While many believe the title race is only between Sundowns and Pirates, other teams should not be ruled out of contention.

Seven games is a long time in football, particularly with just a few points separating the top six. The likes of Free State Stars, Maritzburg United and Kaizer Chiefs can still claw their way back into the race.

Even sixth-placed City, who are nine points adrift of the leaders, are still in with a chance.

On paper, Pirates stand a real chance of challenging Sundowns and pushing them all the way. The Bucs will be hoping that Pitso Mosimane is distracted by his involvement in the CAF Champions League.

Stars and United have been the surprise packages of this season so far, and credit should go to their coaches, Luc Eymael and Fadlu Davids.

Both teams have not just done well, but are a marvel to watch. The two are not in third and fourth place by mistake. They have flown under the radar and could spring some more surprises.

Unlike Sundowns, Pirates and Chiefs, these two are under no pressure to deliver the title at the end of the season and this could work in their favour. But whatever happens, they have done their supporters and management proud already.

Davids in particular has been impressive with some of the unknown quantities. Siphesihle Ndlovu and Lebohang Maboe have been stand-out players at United.

Steve Komphela will be hoping his Chiefs side recover from their 3-1 drubbing in the Soweto Derby when they host AmaZulu on Saturday evening.

Amakhosi are eight points behind Sundowns and their chances of clinching the league title seem to be diminishing with every game they play. However, they have the personnel to get them back on track.

Relegation battle

While Platinum Stars certainly look doomed to be sent into relegation, as many as eight other sides are also fighting hard for survival.

Bottom-of-the-log Stars need at least four straight victories from their remaining seven matches to stand a chance of surviving the axe.

However, that looks unlikely as they still have to register a win this year – they have lost six of their past eight games.

At the same time, they are not the only side in danger of going down. Five other clubs – Golden Arrows, Polokwane City, Chippa United, AmaZulu and SuperSport United are on 27 points – which is 10 ahead of Stars, but their safety is not guaranteed.

Ajax are seven points clear of Stars, but with one game more. They will be dragged through the mud if the Rustenburg-based side gets maximum points in their game against Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday.

Interestingly, all the bottom sides still have to play each other, which would make their encounters six-pointers.

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Tue 20 Apr 21 15:00 PM (SAST)
Chippa United
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Tue 20 Apr 21 17:00 PM (SAST)
Bloemfontein Celtic
Dr. Petrus Molemela Stadium
Tue 20 Apr 21 17:00 PM (SAST)
Tshakhuma FC
Maritzburg United
Old Peter Mokaba Stadium
Sun 18 Apr 21
Orlando Pirates 2
Maritzburg United 0
Thu 15 Apr 21
Baroka 1
Kaizer Chiefs 1
Wed 14 Apr 21
TS Galaxy 0
Orlando Pirates 0
1. Mamelodi Sundowns
2. AmaZulu
3. Golden Arrows
4. Orlando Pirates