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South African PSL Preview

Mamelodi Sundowns 9/20 v Maritzburg United 6/1 draw 11/4 – Friday 8 August -Loftus (20:00)
The league champions kick-off the new campaign on Friday night as they host Steve Komphela’s Maritzburg United. Sundowns will be looking to redeem themselves after being kicked-out of the MTN8 by Platinum Stars last Saturday. The Brazilians failed to stamp their authority on the match and after going two goals down after 14 minutes, managed only one goal to lose the match 2-1. Sundowns will be happy to start the league campaign at home, where they recorded 11 wins from 15 games, losing just twice. Maritzburg picked up some valuable points on the road last season, winning four and drawing four of their 15 travels. They also recorded a 2-2 draw at Loftus. However, Sundowns have beefed up their squad majorly, hijacking two of Maritzburg’s starting defenders and Pitso will likely introduce more big signings into the starting line-up after starting only one new player in Lindokuhle Mbatha against Platinum Stars last weekend. The home win is tipped. 

University of Pretoria 8/10 v Polokwane City 33/10 draw 22/10 – Saturday 9 August – Tuks Stadium (15:00)
Two survivors from last season will face each other hoping to start this campaign much differently by claiming maximum points.  Polokwane City will be hoping to vastly improve on their league form after finishing the 2013/14 season in 15th position and saving their top flight status via the playoffs. City conceded the second most goals in the league after relegated Golden Arrows and had a goal difference of negative 12. Their away form was their downfall having lost 12 of their 15 travels, winning just twice. University of Pretoria finished 11th last season thanks to the eight home wins they recorded. They scored 19 goals conceding a mere 12 in 15 matches at the Tuks Stadium. Take AmaTuks to pick up maximum points. 

Free State Stars 33/10 v Kaizer Chiefs 15/20 draw 23/10 – Saturday 9 August – Charles Mopeli Stadium (15:00)
Last season’s runner-up Kaizer Chiefs travel to Free State for their opening game of the season. After saving relegation on the final matchday Free State Stars have gone on to overhaul their squad by making 14 signings during the offseason, of which includes Ivorian defender Robert Sankara and Burkina Faso international goalkeeper Daouda Diakite. Also joining on a permanent deal is Richard Henyekane, who scored seven goals in 16 appearances when he was on loan from Mamelodi Sundowns to help Ea Lla Koto fight off relegation. After Carling Black Label Cup heartbreak, Chiefs bounced back last weekend in the MTN8, progressing to the semi-finals with a 4-0 thrashing of Mpumalanga Black Aces. Chiefs are unbeaten against Free State Stars in the last 6 meetings and overall have lost just three times to the Free State outfit in 20 meetings, winning 12. The away win looks a good bet at 15/20. 

Chippa United 33/10 v Platinum Stars 8/10 draw 22/10 - Saturday 9 August – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (18:00)
NFD champions Chippa United will tackle Platinum Stars in their first official match at Nelson Mandela Bay - which is their new home stadium since swopping Cape Town for Port Elizabeth. The Chilli Boys’ return to the top tier saw them make several signings. The headline signings include the loan agreements of Edward Manqele and Thamsanqa Sangweni from Sundowns, goalkeeper Fatau Dauda from Pirates while Nigerian striker George Akpabio was purchased on a permanent basis after scoring 13 goals for the Chilli Boys last season. Platinum Stars are flying high after sealing a spot in the MTN8 semi-finals with a 2-1 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns. However, Dikwena battled to record wins on the road last season, bagging just three, while drawing six times in 15 travels. The draw looks a good bet. 

Orlando Pirates 9/20 v Moroka Swallows 6/1 draw 11/4 – Saturday 9 August - Orlando Stadium (20:15)
Orlando Pirates will look to more success on Saturday night against Moroka Swallows after already winning the Carling Black Label Cup and their MTN8 quarter-final. Pirates were the more dominant against opponents SuperSport United and should have buried more chances in the 2-1 victory.  Swallows have been one of the many PSL teams busy in the transfer window. Following a disappointing season where they narrowly avoided relegation, the Dube Birds have secured the services of quite a few defenders with former Red Star Belgrade player, Boris Savic, heading the list. They have also brought in two other Europeans - Serb goalkeeper Obren Cuckovic and Slovenian midfielder Vladimir Mandic. Coach Zeca Marques has lost some of his biggest players through the off-season - central figures like Edward Manqele, Asavela Mbekile, Giorgi Nergadze and Levi Mokgothu. Kenyan attacking midfielder Kevin Omondi, Chiefs pair Lucky Baloyi and Philani Cele as well as ex-Bloemfontein Celtic defender Tsietsi Mahoa also signed for the Dube Birds. Pirates pulled the double over Swallows in this Soweto derby last season with 1-0 wins in both meetings and are tipped to do similar here. 

SuperSport United 14/10 v Bidvest Wits 18/10 draw 21/10 – Saturday 9 August – Lucas Moripe Stadium (20:15)
Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt will travel to his old club SuperSport United hoping to keep his unbeaten record against them intact. SuperSport United had a good pre-season, defeating University of Pretoria and Mamelodi Sundowns, but failed to carry that form into their MTN8 match against Orlando Pirates, losing 2-1. Wits were on the winning end of their MTN8 quarter-final, beating Bloemfontein Celtic in penalties after both sides failed to score in 120 minutes of play. Wits had a superb 2013/14 season, finishing third on the log behind Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs. The Clever Boys have snapped up some good talent like Dillon Sheppard, Buhle Mkhawanzi, Henrico Botes, Chris Katongo and Giorgi Nergadze. SuperSport have been quieter and will have to do without top striker Mame Niang who has joined Sundowns.  The away win is on offer at a healthy 18/10. 

AmaZulu 1/1 v Ajax Cape Town 5/2 draw 22/10 – Sunday 10 August – Moses Mabhida Stadium (15:00)
AmaZulu and Ajax Cape Town will clash at the majestic Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Both sides finished below the top eight last season and will be hoping to improve this campaign. Usuthu have been fairly quiet during the transfer window but have managed to secure the permanent signing of Bongani ‘Drogba’ Ndulula after the former Pirates striker showed his steel on loan last season. Usuthu have also signed Zambian forward Bornwell Mwape who joins Ndulula, Lucky Nguzana and Ayanda Dlamini to make up their attack. In defence Robyn Johannes joins after being released by Maritzburg United last season. It looks like Ajax Cape Town have managed to keep hold of young starlet Keagan Dolly who was pursued by the big spenders in the off season, more notably by league champions Mamelodi Sundowns. Roger De Sa’s young team struggled on the road last season, winning just twice and drawing four times out of 15 travels. However, AmaZulu were inconsistent at home and the draw looks the most likely result.

Bloemfontein Celtic 7/10 v Mpumalanga Black Aces 7/2 draw 5/2 – Sunday 10 August – Free State Stadium (15:00)
Bloemfontein Celtic and Black Aces complete the first round of ABSA Premiership fixtures. Celtic suffered disappointment in the MTN8 last Friday night, going down in penalties to Bidvest Wits. However, they will be confident of winning their league opener against an Aces side who were humiliated 4-0 by Kaizer Chiefs. Celtic, spurred on by their passionate support base, finished their 2013/14 season on a good note clinching sixth spot. Phunya Sele Sele started the season badly and switched coaches by employing German tactician Ernst Middendorp and he improved the team as they gradually made their way to the top half of the table. Celtic are traditionally strong at home and lost just twice in front of their home crowd last season in 15 games. Celtic won this fixture 2-0 last season and are tipped for the victory again. 

Written by Wayde Dorkin
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Soccer Pro’s PSL Picks
Sundowns WIN 9/20
Pretoria University WIN 8/10
Chiefs WIN 15/20
Chippa United DRAW 15/20
Pirates WIN 9/20
Bidvest Wits WIN 18/10
AmaZulu v Ajax DRAW 22/10
Bloem Celtic WIN 7/10