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Absa Premiership: Soweto Derby Preview

The entrancing narratives of South African football in the shape of hot and cold Kaizer Chiefs and steadily improving Orlando Pirates will bring the whole country to a standstill when they collide at FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon. This fiercely-contested crosstown rivalry is also crucial in the league title race as the Buccaneers and Amakhosi lie second and third respectively on the log. Neither of the sides want to lose ground on high-flying Bidvest Wits. It’s Giovanni Solinas’ first taste of arguably the biggest fixture in the domestic football calendar, while Milutin Sredojevic has experienced it a couple of times before. So, who will reign supreme? The Italian or the Serb?


Absa Premiership 
Orlando Pirates vs Kaizer Chiefs   
Saturday 27 October  
FNB Stadium 

To Win 
Orlando Pirates 12/10
Draw 18/10
Kaizer Chiefs 26/10

Orlando Pirates

The Mighty Buccaneers are top-placed Bidvest Wits’ nearest challengers as they’re second on the Absa Premiership standings with a single point separating the two sides. Sredojevic’s men will be looking to take points off a side that’s two points below them and open up a five-point gap which could turn the league title competition into a two-horse race for now.

The last time these sides met, Orlando Pirates ran riot and smashed the Glamour Boys 3-1 in one of the most one-sided derbies I’ve ever witnessed. Had it not been for poor finishing, the scoreline could have bordered on embarrassing for Chiefs. That was Xola “Ten-Ten” Mlambo’s first start for Pirates and he’s ended up being a vital cog in their machine.

The hosts head into this one off the back of seven matches without tasting defeat, during which period they’ve recorded four wins and three draws. What’s concerning for the Sea Robbers is the fact that they have drawn too many matches from winning positions and failing to see out wins in matches of this calibre can prove costly.

In terms of players to look out for, Justin Shonga has proved that he’s a top marksman, having scored in four consecutive games for his native Zambia. His countryman Augustine Mulenga is settling in well and has chipped in with some goals. In the goalkeeping department, Jackson Mabokgwane has done well in the last two games after being called upon to replace injured Siyabonga Mpontshane and has hardly put a foot wrong.

The team’s Player of the Month, Vincent Pule, marked his return from injury with a goal and Chiefs defenders must keep a close eye on him. Perhaps the fact that Pirates stole his signature from right under Chiefs’ noses is a source of much intrigue. Speaking of players returning from injury, Musa Nyatama was in action in the Telkom Knockout victory over Chippa United last week.

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Kaizer Chiefs

Amakhosi were dealt a blow last week when one of their key players Lebogang Manyama got injured in a car accident. The timing of the injury was terrible because he was getting back to his best and it came off the back of his Man of the Match performance against Bloemfontein Celtic in the Macufe Cup victory.

Solinas is currently the Absa Premiership Coach of the Month award holder and he won’t be the only one experiencing the Soweto derby for the first time as the Player of the Month for September Khama Billiat will also be featuring in the fixture for the first time since making a switch from Mamelodi Sundowns. Billiat has been a key player for Amakhosi and he’s currently the club’s top goalscorer.

Last week, they had to dig deep as they came from a goal down to force a penalty shootout against Black Leopards in an interesting Telkom Knockout Last 16 tie. Prior to that encounter, they had lost 1-0 to Polokwane City in a match that was played behind closed doors. In fact, they have now gone three matches without winning in 90 minutes which is an absolute contrast of what the team was last month.

Virgil Vries was in goal the last time out and Solinas has alleviated his fans’ fears by clarifying that Itumeleng Khune’s benching wasn’t due to injury concerns.

Normal rotation. We have two very good international goalkeepers,” he said.

Probable line-ups:

Kaizer Chiefs: 4-2-3-1
Khune; Mphahlele, Cardoso, Ngezana, Walusimbi; Katsande, Maluleka; Zuma, Ntshangase, Billiat; Castro.

Orlando Pirates: 4-3-3
Mabokgwane; Nyauza, Marcelo, Jele, Maela; Mlambo, Motshwari, Nyatama; Lorch, Shonga, Pule.

Prediction: Orlando Pirates (12/10)
A cliché statement goes: “form goes out the window in derby matches”, but I foresee the Buccaneers outclassing Chiefs who are still trying to figure out winning combinations. I think the midfield combination of Musa Nyatama, Xola Mlambo and Ben Motshwari, who won the Man of the Match award last week has an edge over Willard Katsande, Siphelele Ntshangase and George Maluleka. Back Ezimnyama Ngenkani to triumph.

Written by Benedict Ngwenya

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