When it comes to the Premier Soccer League (PSL), there are few games more important or intriguing on the calendar than the clash between Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns, and the first meeting between the two sides this season is expected to be no different.
On Tuesday night, Masandawana travel to Braamfontein looking to build on their recent victory over Orlando Pirates, while Wits will look to use their impressive Telkom Knockout Cup run where they reached the final on Saturday afternoon to motivate them up the PSL ladder.
Both sides find themselves in a similar situation, albeit Wits would be considered as being worse off. The Students currently find themselves languishing dangerously in 15th place, a solitary point off the bottom. This is a highly precarious situation for the club who only a few months ago found themselves celebrating their maiden league title.
However, following victory over Kaizer Chiefs in the Cup, if Gavin Hunt’s man are able to claim the three points against the Brazilians that could be the turning point in their season. Under Hunt, Wits have been accustomed to being an organised and consistent outfit which was the key to their triumph last season, and with Wits’ final four games of 2017 against teams at the bottom half of the log, it seems unlikely that they would drop points before the turn of the year if they can build a head of steam.
However, should Wits suffer defeat against Sundowns, encounters against the likes of Platinum Stars and Ajax Cape Town could prove more important than Wits would have ever imagined as Hunt will by no means want to go into the Christmas break stuck in the dreaded relegation zone which could see pressure mount on his shoulders and the unlikely axe hover above his shoulders. But until then, Hunt has five games including the encounter against the former African Champions to turn things around.
Meanwhile, for Sundowns and coach Pitso Mosimane victory will come as a major confidence booster. Sundowns find themselves in mid-table and this certainly will not be acceptable by a club of Sundowns’ standards. But after bombing out of the Caf Champions League and Telkom Knockout Cup, Sundowns’ focus has fallen firmly on the league, and after their thumping of Pirates prior to the international break, victory over the Clever Boys could see Sundowns back amongst the league’s chasing pack.
More importantly victory will also ensure that the Tshwane giants have momentum on their side as they have a highly congested and slightly daunting December period. Sundowns have in store for them, a potential bogey encounter against Chippa United, before two top-of-the-table clashes against log leaders Baroka and the high flying Golden Arrows. They will then need to fend off the likes of Maritzburg United and Bloemfontein Celtic, bringing the 2017 South African football calendar to a close with a crunch encounter against Cape Town City.
Nonetheless, the importance of victory on Tuesday night for either side cannot be stressed enough, but worryingly for Wits is Sundowns record in this fixture. Out of 26 previous meetings, Sundowns have claimed 15 victories while Wits have only been victorious on seven occasions. But it should be noted that Wits’ most recent victory came earlier in the year. This will only add to the intrigue, promising fans a real treat.