With the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title race heating up, the battle on the wrong end of the table is also intensifying heading into the final two matches of the season.
Although the second-placed Orlando Pirates have always downplayed their title ambitions as they are breathing heavily down Mamelodi Sundowns’ neck, the Brazilians also want to wrap up the season as soon as possible.
On the other hand, Platinum Stars have already been relegated with SuperSport United and Ajax Cape Town fighting strongly to avoid the play-off spot. But former Moroka Swallows coach Zeca Marques believes history does not mean you deserve to be in the PSL.
Marques spoke to Goal regarding the battle to avoid the PSL/National First Division play-off spot as it looks like Amatsantsa A Pitori are up in arms against the Urban Warriors.
Under coach Muhsin Ertugral, the Mother City-based outfit are placed 15th on the log table with 31 points and will visit league leaders Sundowns on Saturday afternoon.
For Kaitano Tembo’s troops, they are up against Chippa United who are out to consolidate their top eight finish and currently sit 14th with 32 points.
“It’s really difficult to say who will finish at 15 but it depends on the players’ mental attitude, to face challenges in the last few games,” he told Goal.
“There is a lot at stake and it will also depend on who wants it more between Ajax and Supersport, but when I look at it, SuperSport are in a worse position than Ajax,” he said.
“I am saying this because Ajax can go up since they have been there (bottom) for a while, and the same cannot be said about SuperSport who are under pressure because they keep going down,” explained Marques.
“They are under heavy pressure and they are worried about the next game which can be crucial…the other factor is that Ajax are biting at their heels - so realising the importance of the next game could be detrimental,” he reacted.
Asked about what impact on the possibility of seeing the Parow-based side and Tshwane outfit joining Dikwena in the NFD, the 56-year-old believes history or stature does not guarantee a spot in the elite division.
He said planning, preparation, buying quality players and employing the right coach will definitely ensure that a club secures a pot in the PSL.
“In my view, no one should be guaranteed to be in the PSL. The clubs must prove it with their performances on the field and history or not, that is something for us and the public,” said the former Black Leopards coach.
“History or pedigree is only a talking point for the public, if these clubs fail to prove that they deserve to be in the PSL then we cannot say that will have an impact on the league," he said.
“Assessing the situation of both clubs, one can conclude that both teams have done more wrong than right to be in that position," reacted the ex-Lusitano boss.
“These two clubs must have worked on their organisation, that is employing the right coach, plan and prepare for the season and if you fail to do so, then be prepared to face the music," explained Marques.
“It is unlucky for SuperSport because they have all the support, the money to buy any player they want and so on, but for Ajax it is different," he noted.
“They use young players and rely mostly on their youth system, but they needed to know that youngsters can take you up to so far, so it was important to mix the youth with the experienced," he reflected.
“Having said that, I don’t think Ajax have learned from this because they are facing the same battle for the second season – they must look at perhaps changing their strategy going forward to balance thigs a bit,” added the former midfielder.
With Bidvest Wits (12th) having lost 4-0 to the Buccaneers, Polokwane City (13th) drawing at home to Cape Town City on Wednesday night, the former Santos manager reckons Ajax will find it difficult to move away from the 15th spot.
“I think Ajax have a tough battle in their hands because Sundowns have a momentum and will want to wrap up the league title as soon as possible,” he added.
“I see it as a perfect opportunity for Pitso (Mosimane) to wrap things up and SuperSport can draw against Chippa as we know they want a spot in the top eight,” he said.
“I think (Wits and Polokwane) they will survive because even if they lose their next games, Ajax will still need to win against Sundowns and that is very tough for them,” said the MTN 8 Cup winner.
“That is the sad reality for them and they have two massive games in front of them, Sundowns and Chiefs games are very tricky for them - in this case they must win and forget about other teams,” concluded Marques.