FEATURE: How Orlando Pirates should tactically beat Sundowns

Augusto Palacios - Orlando Pirates
A victory for the Buccaneers over the Brazilians at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane could open up the PSL title race

Mamelodi Sundowns, who will lock horns with Orlando Pirates in a titanic Premier Soccer League (PSL) clash on Saturday, are six points behind log leaders SuperSport United.

The Brazilians have five games in hand which could see them go nine points clear at the top if they win all of them. Pirates will face a Sundowns side boasting arguably the best attackers in the PSL.

The team with the best attack often wins the league title and the league title winners are regarded as the best team in the country. This was the case for Sundowns last season as they outscored (55 goals) all PSL teams and they clinched their seventh league title, which is a record.

Even without Keagan Dolly, who recently left the Brazilians for French Ligue 1 club Montpellier, Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane still has lethal forwards at his disposal.

Rejuvenated Percy Tau is expected to step up and fill the void left by the mercurial winger, who provided key goals and assists for the Tshwane giants.

While the 2013/14 PSL Player of the Season Sibusiso Vilakazi, who has already showed glimpses of his brilliance in his first eight months at Sundowns, is another good option for Mosimane.

But how do you stop a free scoring team like Sundowns which averages 1.9 goals per game this season?

Mosimane has constantly used three forwards with a mobile number nine and two wide attackers. Colombian hitman Leonardo Castro has flourished in this number nine role.

This season we have seen versatile forwards Vilakazi and Khama Billiat being used in this role in the absence of Castro, while Tau, Anthony Laffor and Themba Zwane have constantly been used as the wide forwards.

Pirates caretaker coach Augusto Palacios should resort to the 3-5-2 formation in order to stop the 2016 Caf Champions League winners, who have developed a habit of scoring goals left, right and centre.

The three man defence would be able to man-mark the Sundowns forwards, who are most likely to be Tau, Billiat and Vilakazi or even Laffor on Saturday.

This would enable the rest of the Pirates team to stay tight against the rest of the Sundowns players, in an attempt to press them high up the pitch - keeping their influential wing-backs Tebogo Langerman and Thapelo Morena pinned in their own half.

With Sundowns' first choice centre back Wayne Arendse set to miss Saturday's clash due to suspension, this could be an invitation for the current PSL topscorer, Tendai Ndoro of Pirates.

The presence of forgotten forward Thamsanqa Gabuza as the Zimbabwean's partner upfront could also be felt by the Sundowns central defence. Gabuza's power and strong running has often terrorised defences, while Ndoro would be ready to pounce.

Jackson Mabokgwane, who is expected to start in Bucs goal in the absence of injured Brighton Mhlongo, would have to play the sweeper-keeper role and master it. Let's see how Palacios sets up.