By Daniel Eslick
This is it. South African football at its best. The Soweto Derby is Africa’s “Clasico” and the significance of this fixture has never been more important, during a season where the Soweto Giants Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are locked in a tense battle for Premier Soccer League supremacy.
Orlando Pirates trail Kaizer Chiefs by five points with a game in hand, meaning victory is essential for the Buccaneers to stifle the AmaKhosi’s march to glory.
Stuart Baxter’s side has the advantage, the confidence and the ability to overcome a stumbling Pirates outfit, but form cannot be taken into account during one of the world’s most important derby matches.
Goal.com South Africa decided to highlight five key areas where the Soweto Derby could be won or lost by either side on Saturday, during what should be an intriguing match between two arch-rivals desperate to prove they are the best team in not only Soweto, but in the whole of South Africa.
|PIRATES' POOR DEFENSIVE FORM
The Buccaneers have been unable to live up to their high standards in defence during their last three fixtures. The loss of defensive stalwart Siyabonga Sangweni to injury seems to have affected the entire unit.
A woeful 4-1 loss in the Nedbank Cup against Maluti FET College seemed to start the rot, as the defending champions surrendered a two goal lead to Moroka Swallows and a late equaliser against Bloemfontein Celtic in their following two PSL fixtures.
Sitting merely a point behind Chiefs before the slippery slide began, Pirates looked confident enough to secure yet another PSL title. But defensive demons sneaked into their game, coupled with a lack of concentration and fight throughout the squad which has resulted in the team resting five points below Chiefs on the eve of the Soweto Derby.
Chiefs will look to expose the Buccaneers defensive woes, which has resulted in the defending champions conceding eight goals in their last three matches: a troubling stat for Pirates fans and Roger de Sa.
|KHUNE VS MEYIWA
Everyone recognises Ithumeleng Khune as South Africa’s best goalkeeper. His acrobatic saves and distribution make him a world-class shot-stopper. However his struggles to deal with crosses and corner kicks mean he does have a weakness, which Pirates will no doubt try to expose.
Senzo Meyiwa has always shown potential, but lacks the cutting edge and the X-factor in goal which Khune certainly has at his disposal.
Meyiwa’s confidence will be at an all-time low after conceding eight goals in his past three outings, but the keeper may try to right his past wrongs during the Derby where the stage will be set for goalkeepers to prove their worth.
The battle between the goalkeepers could be a decisive factor during Saturday’s match.
|LIFE WITHOUT MYENI
The defending champions have been hit by an injury crisis this season and will start the Soweto Derby without Siyabonga Sangweni, Rooi Mahamutsa and Robyn Johannes in defense, while the important attacking ability of Sifiso Myeni and Benni McCarthy will not be available to Roger de Sa.
Myeni’s injury is one of the most concerning factors for De Sa to deal with as the wingers pace, movement and creative ability has made him an integral part of Pirates’ attacking set-up. The likes of Daine Klate and Thulasizwe Mbuyane will need to step up to the plate on Saturday, as life without Myeni will be tough for the Buccaneers.
Chiefs has also experienced a slight injury crisis, as one of the most important players Lehlonoholo Majoro is set to miss the derby, while Matthew Rusike also sustained an injury and will be unable to play against Pirates.
How both teams cope without some of their best players will be a vital aspect of who can take home the glory on Saturday afternoon.
|HANDLING THE PRESSURE
Who is under more pressure to win this match? That will be a vital aspect during the 90 minutes. In front of 87 000 fans and a worldwide audience, the game will be hotly contested and could go down to the wire.
Pirates need to win and have been placed under immense pressure by their fans due to their last three performances. The weight of the double treble winning season seems to have also affected the mind-set of the team, as expectations can weigh down any outfit which is under-performing.
Kaizer Chiefs will also feel the pressure of seven seasons without PSL glory. The team will be expected to beat a weakened Pirates side and may suffer from over-confidence going into the clash. All will be revealed on Saturday, but the result will certainly depend on which team can work under pressure and fulfil their coaches’ wishes and tactics on the day.
|THE MIDFIELD BATTLE
The Soweto derby is often played at an incredible pace and yields goals, with over 350 goals being scored throughout the derby’s illustrious history. The importance of the midfield is vast, as the team which can control the match and develop passages of play will win the game.
Both Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs hold incredible talent in the middle of the park. Andile Jali and Oupa Manyisa will hold the key for the Buccaneers, while the influence of William Katsande and Reneilwe Letsholoyane will be at Chiefs disposal.
Out on the wing Kaizer Chiefs' Simphiwe Tshabalala looks in menacing form, while Pirates will rely on Daine Klate and Thulasizwe Mbuyane to add some width to their play during the clash.
The midfielders in both sides have the ability to pass, the vision to release their attacking teammates and the potential to score goals. The greatest battle in this match will be in the midfield and this will certainly be where the game is won or lost.