Sundowns vs Orlando Pirates Preview

Absa Premiership | Sunday 20 December | Loftus Versfeld Stadium | 15:30

The PSL returns this weekend with a cracker of a match as Mamelodi Sundows play host to CAF Confederation  finalists Orlando Pirates. The Brazilians are second on the log, while the Sea Robbers are currently placed 12th, looking to make a surge up the table. At the time of writing, Sundowns are still to contest the 2015 Telkom Knockout final.

To Win (90mins)
Sundowns 1/1
Draw 43/20
Orlando Pirates 28/10

Mamelodi Sundowns

Though Sundowns didn’t start the season as well as they’d hoped; the Brazilians have managed to put in solid performances this season. Pitso Mosimane’s charges have managed to shrug off earlier disappointments, like crashing out of the MTN8, to put themselves in the championship zone. They are now second on the Premiership table with three points between them and leaders Bidvest Wits. 

Bafana Bastyle’s last league match saw them topple Free State Stars at home, claiming a 3-1 victory. Their home form has been outstanding this term as they remain unbeaten on their ground with four wins and just one draw from five matches. Sundowns have shown impressive resilience by keeping their feet on the ground even though there was mounting pressure on them following unimpressive results earlier on in the season. There were also calls from fans for Mosimane to vacate the hot seat. Since then he has held his own and his players have came to the party. Sundowns are undefeated in their last 10 matches in all competitions, with Mosimane rotating his players, keeping them fresh and hungry. Downs have a team blessed with an abundance of quality. 

Leading the line will be Anthony Laffor who has scored just three goals in 11 league games, and he will be eager to add to that tally. Khama Billiat has been impressive for Sundowns this season. The Zimbabwean superstar is versatile, and can operate either on the wing or as an attacking midfielder. Themba Zwane has also impressed for the Brazilians, scoring three goals from midfield. He is blessed with trickery, speed and power, including an eye for goal. Keagan Dolly, who has been in terrific form for both Sundowns and the national Under-23 side, is blessed with blistering pace and skill. He has emerged as one of the most lethal wingers in the PSL and has been an integral member of Downs' attack. He has been a nightmare to opponents on both flanks; creating and scoring a number of goals for his side, proving dangerous from open play as well as set-pieces. Dolly should play a key role in breaking down Pirates' defence.

Orlando Pirates

Pirates will be looking to get past their disappointing CAF Confederation Cup final defeat at the hands of Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel. The Sea Robbers desperately need to turn their season around. They have been dismal domestically, managing only three victories from a possible nine matches. Buccaneers need to be at their very best if they are to get anything out of this fixture. However, prior to the break, Pirates were getting back to their best, claiming back-to-back league wins away to Kaizer Chiefs (3-1), as well as Ajax Cape Town (2-1). 

Eric Tinkler is under pressure to produce results, as the Sea Robbers are 15 points off the pace of Bidvest Wits at the league summit. He definitely has the team to do it. Thandani Ntshumayelo and Isarr Sarr will pull the strings from the middle of the park. Ntshumayelo will most likely dictate play with his incredible passing skills, while Sarr is there to break up opposition attacks. Thabo Rakhale and Mpho Makola should operate either flank. Both players play with flair and skill, drifting in behind defenders and creating space for teammates. Kermit Erasmus, Oupa Manyisa, Felipe Ovono and Thamsanqa Gabuza, are nominated for CAF's Africa-based African Player of the Year. They are all being rewarded for their form in the CAF Confederations Cup, while Gabuza has also impressed on international duty with Bafana Bafana. Erasmas and Gabuza combine up front to form a deadly partnership. Erasmas uses his pace and skill to draw the opposition, playing more as the support striker, which in turn gives Gabuza time and space. 

Oupa Manyisa is the main injury concern for Pirates, but he is believed to be making progress on his recovery from injury. The Buccaneers fan favourite is likely to make a return early next year. Pirates have plenty of players who could hurt Sundowns, so the Brazilians will need to be cautious of how they approach the game.  

Probable line-ups:

Mamelodi Sundowns: 4-5-1
Onyango; Arendse, Langerman, Nthethe, Mphahlele; Dolly, Zungu, Kekana, Billiat, Modise; Laffor

Orlando Pirates: 4-4-2
Ovono; Gcaba, Nyauza, Sangweni, Matlaba; Sarr, Ntshumayelo, Rakhale, Makola; Gabuza, Erasmus

Betting Verdict: Orlando Pirates 
Both teams are in desperate need of maximum points, so we are likely to be entertained with a cagey yet exciting affair. Pirates have won the last four meetings in all competitions away to Sundowns, and although this one could go either way, I’m backing the Bucs to grind out the victory.

Written by Aaron Crowie