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Sundowns vs Orlando Pirates Preview

Nedbank Cup Quarter-Final | Lucas Moripe Stadium | Saturday 23 April | 20:15

Defending champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, will lock horns with Orlando Pirates in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup on Saturday evening.  This meeting will be a repeat of the 2014 quarter-final encounter which was won away from home by the Buccaneers. This season, though, the Brazilians have defeated Pirates twice, and are looking to make it three in a row. With both PSL giants on form, this one looks set to go down to the wire.

To Win (90mins)
Mamelodi Sundowns 13/10
Draw 21/10
Orlando Pirates 2/1

Mamelodi Sundowns

Sundowns are having a scintillating season to say the least. Every player seems in sync, giving their all, showing great determination and belief. In their last 19 league games, the Brazilians have won 15 times, suffering just one defeat. They have the best goalscoring record with 47 from 25 matches, and the joint best defensive record along with Bidvest Wits, conceding only 19 times. Pitso Mosimane is leading this phenomenal team towards a quad, with Sundowns already lifting the Telkom Knockout Cup in December, after ousting PSL league champions Kaizer Chiefs in the final and they are currently six points clear of Wits in the league with only five games to go. 

At the time of writing, Sundowns are yet to play the second leg of the CAF Champions League round of 16 meeting with AS Vita Club, and after losing the first leg 1-0 in Congo, the Brazilians have a mountain to climb. Now, Pirates seem to be just another hurdle in the way of Sundowns defending the Nedbank Cup. The round of 32 saw the Brazilians advance with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over NFD side Highlands Park. They were then pitted against Mbombela United, whom they beat 3-1 on home soil. Mosimane’s men are playing with flair and fluidity, producing exciting and attacking football. Hlompho Kekana may not be one of their most skilful and classy players, but he is definitely one of the key components to this impressive team. He is a rock in the middle of the park, breaking up plays with his tough tackling, while turning defence into attack with his incredible long range passing. 

And then, of course, there is the lethal CBD trio of Leonardo Castro, Khama Billiat and Keegan Dolly. Castro, who has had a slow start at Chloorkop in the beginning of the season, was doubtful that he’d make an impact at Downs, but Pitso’s patience proved to be key, as the Colombian has been firing on all cylinders. In a Sundowns team overflowing with star players, Billiat is one of the best players Pitso has at his disposal. He is quick off the mark, skilful with the ball at his feet, and has an eye for goal. Dolly has become one of the first names on the scoresheet this campaign. The 23-year old is gifted with vision on the field, combined with his quick feet and pace, make him a constant threat. Pirates will need a tactical game-play to deal with the ‘CBD’ combination. 

Orlando Pirates

Pirates made it back-to-back wins as they hammered Golden Arrows 4-1 in their PSL clash last Saturday with Tendai Ndoro bagging a brace. Eric Tinkler was on the verge of being sacked a few weeks ago but has managed to turn Pirates’ horrid season around, and they are currently high on confidence, scoring goals with ease, and might just have the momentum to take the fight to Sundowns this weekend. The Buccaneers have come back strong after a poor start to the season. 

They have won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, scoring 19 goals and conceding just four times. Pirates have had a tougher run in the Nedbank Cup than Sundowns. They faced arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the round of 32, and claimed a well-deserved 2-0 win, before facing-off against Jomo Cosmos and walking away 3-1 victors. Although it comes down to the team performance, there are a handful of players that have stood out in recent weeks, pulling their team over the victory line. Amigo Memela is one of those players, and he is combining well with Ndoro, who is the joint top scorer of the competition – along with Bidvest Wits’ Daine Klate - with four goals, netting a brace against Chiefs and then scoring another two at Jomo Cosmos. 

Memela is fast, and uses his skill and intelligent runs to get in behind opposing defenders. The tall and lanky Ndoro offers great aerial ability, whilst still proves to be a target man with his strength and hold-up play, which allows his teammates to make those clever runs. Thabo Rakhale and Mpho Makola also provide the team with pace and flair down the wings. Rakhale loves using his trickery to beat his man, to put in those those delicious crosses. Makola is more straight forward, and probably offers more of a goal threat than Rakhale. He has an eye for goal with his wicked and powerful right foot. Pirates definitely have a team that can get the job done, but Sundowns have proved they are the team to beat this season. Only question is, can Pirates do what most teams have failed to do and defeat Sundowns?

Probable line-ups:

Mamelodi Sundowns: 4-3-3
Sandilands; Langerman, Nthethe, Arendse, Mphahlele; Kekana, T. Zwane, Soumah; Dolly, Billiat, Castro

Orlando Pirates: 4-4-2 
Mhlongo; Gcaba, Nyauza, Gyimah, Matlaba; Rakhale, Sarr, Myeni, Makola; Memela, Ndoro 

Betting Verdict: Orlando Pirates (2/1)
Both teams have been in top form, scoring goals at will, and this game could go either way. However, Pirates just seem to have that cup pedigree at present, which Sundowns have lacked in this competition, despite winning the Telkom Knockout. The Buccaneers are tipped to book their spot in the semi-final with a victory in the 90 minute market.

Written by Aaron Crowie