The PSL is back! And there is no better way to re-introduce the league than with a mouth-watering clash between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates.
Fans in South Africa will be forgiven for not remembering exactly when their team last took to the pitch, but following the successful return of the Nedbank Cup, it is now time to wrap up the 2019-2020 campaign.
It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride that starts on Tuesday and ends on 5 September. The picture at the top reads like a straight shootout with Kaizer Chiefs, who have eight matches to fulfil, leading by four points with defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns lying in wait with a game in hand. But in South African football nothing can be taken for granted and the likes of SuperSport United, Pirates, Maritzburg United and Wits, who have new owners, will note their mathematical chances of pulling off a grand upset.
Sundowns, who beat Wits 3-2 on the weekend in cup football, now have experience in dealing with the fitness concerns as clubs go from no competitive action to the intensity of trying to win the title, qualify inside the top and for some, avoid relegation.
All of this going without fans in attendance and clubs having moved into neutral venues as their temporary home around Gauteng.
Observers on the action will not be blamed for not being 100% clued up on the new regulations adopted in SA following the Covid-19 outbreak. Even Masandawana coach Pitso Mosimane hasn’t gotten up to speed yet.
“I don’t know how many times I asked the fourth official‚ or the bench‚ do I still have a substitution to make?” he said after the Nedbank Cup win.
“They said yes you have‚ but you only have two to go because you’ve already made three. It’s confusing. The half time doesn’t count as a substitute [opportunity]. And I kept asking [PSL senior manager] Lux [September] – ‘Hey Lux‚ explain this thing to me’.
“So it’s really difficult. And you might know the rules‚ but once you are under stress and pressure there‚ everything goes out of your mind. And that’s football under Covid-19.”
The picture at the bottom is as complicated with Black Leopards having just six games to save their season. They have a three-point gap to close with a trio of basement strugglers Baroka, Polokwane City and AmaZulu all now in grave danger. This quartet return to league duty on the weekend and will be featured in our blog preview on Wednesday.
Tuesday, 11 August
Mamelodi Sundowns v Orlando Pirates
Traditionally this has been a low-scoring fixture – the last three PSL encounters have produced just one Gabadinho Mhango goal – but expect the script to be ripped up tonight. Sundowns know that only victory will be enough in their quest to move past Chiefs. The strength in depth for Sundowns and their mastermind coach’s ability to get the job done should be too much for Pirates.
Suggested bet: Sundowns to win and over 1.5 match goals at 2.70
Wednesday, 12 August
Kaizer Chiefs v Bidvest Wits
Despite the club being sold to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, Wits’ squad performed admirably in their cup defeat on the weekend. However, Chiefs will start as favourites and the fresh legs could be the difference in the final quarter of this clash. The title is within reach for Amakhosi and after a 159 day wait, they will likely start with an attacking mindset which sets up for an entertaining night’s viewing.
Suggested bet: Kaizer Chiefs to win and both teams to score at 5.00