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Mamelodi Sundowns vs SuperSport United Preview

Sundowns & SuperSport do battle once again, with Jeremy Brockie facing his former side for the first time.
Sundowns & SuperSport do battle, with Jeremy Brockie facing his former side for the first time.
ABSA Premiership | Saturday 24 February | Loftus Versfeld Stadium | 15:30

This is more than just a derby! The parochial Tshwane battle has countrywide appeal as teams all over South Africa are interested in the encounter for their own fate. Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates will be hoping for the prevalence of the blue side of Pretoria to stay within touching distance of top-placed Mamelodi Sundowns while the four teams below Matsatsantsa on the log will be rooting for the Yellow Nation. This is a fixture that The Brazilians have dominated in recent years. SuperSport last beat their crosstown rivals in a league match back in 2013, after which Sundowns has recorded 10 wins over them. Eric Tinkler was known for his ability to hold his own against Pitso Mosimane during his time at Orlando Pirates and Cape Town City but his first meeting with the former African champions since he made the move to Pretoria ended in a 2-0 defeat. However, Tinkler did get one over him in the Telkom Knockout when he knocked Sundowns out on penalties.

To Win (90 mins)
Mamelodi Sundowns 13/20
Draw 5/2
SuperSport United 43/10

Mamelodi Sundowns

The Brazilians had to dig deep and grind out a 1-0 victory in the Nedbank Cup against Cape Town All Stars who play in the National First Division. Percy Tau, who is in sizzling form, netted the winner and the PSL Footballer of The Year contender has seven league goals to his name. Tau is the main threat for SuperSport United. Sundowns must also be buoyed by the return of one of their leading goalscorers, Khama Billiat, who has six goals despite limited game time due to speculation surrounding his future at the club.

Jeremy Brockie will be facing his former side for the first time since making a switch to Chloorkop and he is yet to find the target for Sundowns, at the time of writing. In terms of the big games since the turn of the year, Sundowns have lost to Orlando Pirates, played to a goalless draw with Kaizer Chiefs and beat Cape Town City 1-0.

This is more like a “must not lose” match for the hosts as they hold a healthy four-point lead at the summit of the standings. A defeat would keep the gap at four points and make the whole situation very interesting with teams like Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs longing for the right moment to pounce.

SuperSport United

Matsatsantsa lie 12th on the log with only three points separating them and 15th-placed Ajax Cape Town and they haven’t been too convincing this season since winning the MTN8. Before their 4-2 victory over Bloemfontein Celtic two weeks ago, SuperSport had gone four matches without a win. They were knocked out of the Nedbank Cup by the same Celtic in a match where Eric Tinkler made nine changes to the side that triumphed in the league encounter. Tinkler has made it very clear that surviving relegation is the main priority as opposed to participating in cup competitions.

Evans Rusike who was roped in during the January transfer window to fill the void left by the departure of Jeremy Brockie showed signs of combining with the likes of Kingston Nkhatha and Thuso Phala. The Zimbabwean striker found the back of the net against Celtic in the league encounter to open his SuperSport United account. That has taken his goal tally for the season to eight. That’s just one behind leading scorer Rodney Ramagalela and he will be determined to dethrone him.

The arrival of Mogakolodi Ngele from Sundowns has also given them the much-needed sense of urgency and creativity in the final third and with Tinkler preferring counter-attacking football, he’s a valuable addition. Remember, Sundowns allows players who are on loan at other clubs to play against them.

Probable line-ups:

Sundowns: 4-2-3-1
Onyango; Morena, Madisha, Nascimento, Langerman; Mabunda, Kekana; Tau, Manyisa, Billiat; Brockie

SuperSport: 4-2-3-1
Pieterse; Kekana, Daniels, Farmer, Bhasera; Furman, Letsholonyane; Phala, Modiba, Ngele; Rusike

Prediction: Mamelodi Sundowns (13/20)
Tactically, I’m expecting the visitors to be defensively resolute and hope the pace of Ngele, Evans and Phala comes in handy when transitional play has to come to the fore. Sundowns are likely to press high up the pitch with their patient and smart build-ups. Given their quality, the hosts will win the midfield battle but progression into the final third will be made harder by a low defensive block. It will be a tactical game and Sundowns will win it if they score first. Put your money on them to get the better of Tinkler’s men and compound their misery.

Written by Benedict Ngwenya. Follow him on Twitter here!