Kaizer Chiefs vs Sundowns Preview

Absa Premiership | Saturday 9 January | FNB Stadium | 20:15

The South African PSL will take centre stage for the first time this year, with defending champions Kaizer Chiefs hosting current log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns in this weekend’s blockbuster. The Glamour Boys will be out for revenge after the Brazilians slated them 3-1 in the Telkom Knockout final in December. 

To Win (90mins)
Kaizer Chiefs 16/10
Draw 24/10
Sundowns 18/10

Kaizer Chiefs

Prior to the PSL break, Chiefs proved too clever for the Students, beating Bidvest Wits 2-1 at the Cape Town Stadium. Man of the Match Lorenzo Gordinho scored a 73rd minute winner after Daine Klate cancelled out Willard Katsande's 18th minute opener for the Glamour Boys. The result saw Chiefs move within five points of Wits (on 26 points) after 12 games, and also helped ease the disappointment of the Soweto club's second cup final defeat of the season. 

After the Telkom Knockout out loss against Sundowns, Chiefs coach Steve Komphela needed that victory to ensure the Amakhosi faithful he is still the right man to lead the defending champions to a consecutive league title. Chiefs are currently fourth on the table and a victory would see them leapfrog Black Aces in third place, depending on what happens with their encounter with Ajax Cape Town on Friday evening, while it will also take them within two points of their opponents. The Glamour Boys have been excellent on home soil with four victories from six games, suffering just one defeat at the hands of their Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates. In actual fact, that is Amakhosi’s only league defeat this season, as they remain undefeated on their travels. Chiefs have changed from the side that, under previous coach Stuart Baxter, would have been happy to allow Sundowns swaths of possession and seek to catch them with swift counter-attacks. 

Now they are set up with a more tactical approach; keeping possession and pressing high up the pitch when the ball is lost. Amakhosi’s Katsande has been a rock in the middle of the park for the Glamour Boys and he will be a key element in this encounter. He is big, strong and powerful, breaking up play as he does so effectively, while he still has the ability to score goals. Siphiwe Tshabalala and George Lebese offer plenty of attacking threat down the wings. Both players play with speed and flair, including tremendous diski skills to weave through opponents. Camaldine Abraw is likely to lead the line. The Togolese forward seems to be on a bit of a drought in the goal scoring department, but nonetheless, he has the quality to turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye; producing that moment of magic. 

Mamelodi Sundowns 

Sundowns capped a memorable week by ensuring they ended 2015 on top of the Absa Premiership table. The Brazilians, fresh of their Telkom Knockout win against Chiefs, beat Orlando Pirates 2-0 and in the process leapfrogged Bidvest Wits at the summit. Goals by Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat were enough for the Chloorkop outfit to ease to victory at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria as Sundowns moved level on 26 points with Bidvest Wits. 

They do, however, take the lead by virtue of a two-goal better difference. A good week for Mamelodi Sundowns got even better when the latest standings for the Q-Innovation quarter two were revealed, with the Brazilians leading the race for the R1.5 million cash prize. Pitso Mosimane's men have won all four games in the current sequence, the only team with a 100 percent record. They have also scored the most goals (9) and conceded the fewest (1) for a maximum of 12 points. Downs have been in top form in the league with seven wins from their last eight matches, including four victories on the spin. They have done fairly well on the road, claiming three wins from a possible six, but scoring just five goals in the process. 

Pitso Mosimane has got Sundowns playing with pace and flair. The Brazilians are not just set out to win, but to win with style. Pitso has got Downs to play attacking football without resorting to reckless self-endangerment, with smart defending as key to his tactics. Ultimately, Sundowns remain a club with the talent to win more titles, and they have a coach with the experience and talent to realize the squad’s quality. Downs are blessed with an abundance of quality from back to front. Billiat and Themba Zwane are both constant threats from the midfield, with the pair sitting on three goals each for the season thus far. Zwane uses his speed to get down the flanks to deliver those delicious crosses, while Billiat has the vision and creativity to make that inch-perfect pass. Keagan Dolly is another player with pace and skill, as well as the ability to make those defence splitting passes. 

Probable line-ups:

Kaizer Chiefs: 4-2-3-1
Khuzwayo; Gaxa, Gordinho, Gould, Masilela; Katsande, Letsholonyane; Lebese, Ekstein, Tshabalala; Abraw

Mamelodi Sundowns: 4-3-3 
Onyango; Mbekile, Arendse, Nthethe, Langerman; Kekana, Zungu, Dolly; Billiat, Zwane, Castro 

Betting Verdict: DRAW 
With little to choose between the personnel on either side, this is a game that could come down to the choice of tactics on the day – or the right mental psyche needed for the pressure of the occasion. Sundowns may look a better team on the form guide, but Chiefs are difficult to break down at home. With that being said, the draw looks a likely result. 

Written by Aaron Crowie