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Bidvest Wits vs Bloemfontein Celtic Preview

Both coaches, Gavin Hunt (left) and Veselin Jelusic (right) will be fighting to get their hands on the TKO trophy
The Telkom Knockout final between Bidvest Wits and Bloem Celtic takes place on Saturday
Telkom Knockout Final | Saturday 2 December | Princess Magogo Stadium | 18:00

The Telkom Knockout decider takes place at Princess Magogo Stadium on Saturday and there’s nothing to choose between Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic. Wits have been very poor in the league, anchoring the table after nine games, while Celtic have been inconsistent and that is clearly evident in their mid-table placement. In games of this magnitude, form goes out the window and it can do the team a world of good from the confidence point of view. This is how I see the match panning out:

To Win (90 mins)
Bidvest Wits 13/10
Draw 21/10
Bloem Celtic 21/10

To Lift Cup
Bidvest Wits 6/10
Bloemfontein Celtic 13/10

Bidvest Wits

The Clever Boys haven’t really played like a team that won a league and cup double last season as they currently anchor the PSL table with nine points after 11 games. However, Gavin Hunt’s men have been able to grind out results in the Telkom Knockout. They needed extra time to get the better of Free State Stars in the last 16 but managed to wrap up wins in regulation time against Kaizer Chiefs and high-flying Baroka FC.

Hunt must be delighted about the return of midfield kingpin, Xola Mlambo, who sat out the start of the season due to injury. Mlambo played an integral part in helping the team win major honours last season and he combines very well with Midfielder of the Season, Thabang Monare. Mlambo who returned from injury in the victory over Kaizer Chiefs, produced a Man of the Match performance and he will be a key player for the Students.

Their opponents must be wary of Egyptian striker, Amr Gamal, who has three goals in the tournament so far. He shows up in big matches and his antics which remind me of Luis Suarez can irritate or put defenders off. If Celtic lack emotional intelligence against him they’ll have a long day in the office against the Wits number 10. Another player who has been impressive recently is goalkeeper, Darren Keet, who stood between a respectable 2-0 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns and embarrassment last week. He also helped the team salvage a 0-0 draw at Maritzburg United.

The small pitch will suit Wits as they normally play at a relatively small Bidvest Stadium and they have experienced players who have won bigger cups. As I’ve always said, on paper, Wits have the best squad in the PSL in terms of quality and experience and they will be hoping to use this final as a morale-booster to reignite the season.

Bloemfontein Celtic

Phunya Sele Sele coach, Veselin Jelusic is currently the man of the moment, having won PSL coach of the month for October and guided his team to the TKO final. Jelusic puts Celtic’s recent resurgence to players understanding and executing his tactics accordingly. Having won four games in a row, Celtic followed that up by a draw at Platinum Stars and a defeat at home against Orlando Pirates and I think it’s fair to say they played those two having the final in mind.

It’s also interesting to note that Celtic’s path to the final has been the tightest, with the team recording narrow victories throughout. They needed two penalty shootouts against both SuperSport United and Polokwane City and they had to come from behind to knock Platinum Stars out in regulation time.

Last season, Wits won both their league matches against Celtic but Siwelele did manage to avenge those defeats in their only meeting so far this season.

Tshegofatso Mabaso has been a revelation for the team, scoring important goals in tightly-contested matches to help them reach this stage. Very interesting to see if he will start this time around as he’s been mostly used as an impact player. The Free State-based outfit is the hungrier of the two sides, with their very trophy being their last piece of silverware in 2012 and they will fancy their chances against a side that’s eight positions below them on the log.

Probable line-ups:

Bidvest Wits: 4-3-1-2
Keet; Allie, Hlatshwayo, Mkhwanazi, Hlanti; Klate, Monare, Mlambo; Thlone; Gamal, Keene.

Bloemfontein Celtic: 4-3-3
Tignyemb; Mahlasela, Rikhotso, Ndengane, Lubisi; Mashikinya, Letsoalo, Baloyi; Hotto, Mabena, Phalane.

Prediction: Bidvest Wits Win (13/10)
Both teams have been inconsistent which has been the story of the entire PSL this season but they’ve got good players who can deliver on their day. I will put my money on Wits due to their success being the most recent and having experienced players who know how to handle these situations.

Written by Benedict Ngwenya. Follow him on Twitter here!