Defeat will spell the end of coach, who was hero just a few months ago with Cup win
Swallows had just been crowned MTN8 champions after their final victory over SuperSport United and at that stage the departure of coach Zeca Marques seemed like an improbable nightmare.
Stars had endured a difficult start to the campaign and despite coach Cavin Johnson having only just been handed the reins, there was talk of change.
But since then the fortunes of Marques have plummeted and those of Johnson risen hugely.
It seems to be accepted by all, including Marques himself, that failure to get a positive result against Dikwena in this match will see the coach leave his position, with Swallows then having seven weeks to prepare for the resumption of the league in mid-February.
Stars, on the other hand, have won nine of their last 10 league matches and currently sit just a point behind league leaders Kaizer Chiefs.
It is a first half of the season that is beyond the wildest dreams of many Stars supporters, but their run of form has been no fluke. They have defended well, scored goals and played some great football. They fully deserve to be where they are.
Marques has certainly been feeling the heat, having lashed out at his players following their 2-1 loss at Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday. In the game two poor pieces of defending allowed their hosts to come from behind for the win.
"Maybe one of the reasons we are not doing well is that I'm perhaps not getting the respect of the players," said Marques, appointed at the start of the season to replace Gordon Igesund, who left the club to coach Bafana Bafana.
"I came up from my previous job as assistant coach and I knew that would be the most difficult task for me as head coach. It was much easier for Gordon Igesund with his reputation, plus he is a class act. I don't know if I have the respect of the players. The results definitely don't show it. I have to be honest and realistic with myself.
"I have a huge responsibility to this club and I have the club's best interests at heart. I owe them for the opportunity they have given me. I do want to succeed as a coach, I have ambitions of doing well in South Africa and beyond. I believe there is so much potential at this club," he said.
Marques blamed individual errors for the defeat on Sunday, particularly a slip by fullback Gilbert Mapemba that allowed Celtic to equalise soon after the resumption of the second half.
"We have conceded too many goals but we keep repeating the [same] errors. It demoralises the rest of the team, who are working their butts off to win the game."
It is now win or bust for Marques, but he will know better than anyone that it is out of his hands now. Only his players can save him.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Swallows suffered a fifth successive defeat (and extended their winless run to eight matches) when they went down 2-1 away to Bloemfontein Celtic.
- Swallows have managed just two wins at home from seven matches so far this season.
- In head-to-head stats, Swallows and Stars have met in 19 league matches since 2003/04. The Birds have claimed 11 wins compared to five for Dikwena, while just three matches have ended in draws.
- Swallows have an excellent home record against Stars, with seven wins and two draws from nine matches.