With the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title race heating up, Goal takes a look at which of South African football's current top two clubs hold the upper hand going into the final league games.
Mamelodi Sundowns currently find themselves the cherry on top of the PSL cake with a one-point advantage over Orlando Pirates, but with the Buccaneers fighting tooth and nail to make the 'Happy People' smile again, talk has already been gaining momentum regarding a potential upset.
Although, the gap between the PSL’s top two has been brought down to just a single point, the league still remains Sundowns’ to lose as they have a game in hand, but things will not be as easy for the Brazilians as coach Pitso Mosimane previously admitted that games in hand are certainly not points in the bag,
This will surely favour Pirates as the pressure continues to build on the Sundowns players’ shoulders which could see cracks begin to show. Most notably, Sundowns may have just a handful of games remaining at home, but this could worry Mosimane considering their struggles in Tshwane.
Sundowns have only won three of their last five games in all competitions in their own backyard, and with teams such as Chippa United, Bidvest Wits and relegation-threatened Ajax Cape Town lying in wait, their character will be tested. But apart from these clashes, an away trip to Pietermaritzburg is likely to be Sundowns’ most difficult encounter, which should really faze the technical team too much.
Pirates on the other end though, have a far more difficult and challenging run-in with games against Cape Town City, SuperSport United, Bidvest Wits and in-form Free State Stars still to come. With a title run-in as intimidating as Pirates’, even coach Milutin Sredojevic himself can be forgiven for admitting that Sundowns are strong favourites.
But while Pirates may be slightly worried about what lies ahead, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for a Pirates side that has won four of their last five PSL encounters. As long as Pirates can find a way to restrain teams at the back, having already conceded 22 goals in 24 games, they have an attack which has proven to be effective and can do the job if called upon, adding to the 31 goals they have already bagged in the league this season.
However, with Sundowns arguably in a more comfortable position, the league is by no means a foregone conclusion just yet. Mosimane knows better than anyone that it’s not about how you start, but rather how you finish and there is still time remaining for a slump.
But all season long, the utterances coming out of Chloorkop has been about not making the same mistakes of last season where they fell by the wayside at a similar stage, and this is probably the time where Sundowns will need to stand up and be counted.
It’s also important to note that for Sundowns, with the Caf Champions League currently undergoing a short hiatus, they will be able to focus firmly on the league and to a lesser extent on the Nedbank Cup, which could prove advantageous as the Sundowns players will be fresher and mentally stronger.
Indications are clearly there that Sundowns for now, are the league’s top dogs, but despite having the upper hand, football has proven time and time again that you cannot afford to take your eyes off the ball, not even for one second and Mosimane will do well to take heed of that advice if he intends to reclaim the PSL crown.