Absa Premiership: Gameweek 16 Preview

The new year brings a new chapter in South Africa’s top flight, with defending champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, looking to make up some ground on leaders, Bidvest Wits, while many would argue that the title race is still wide open with Orlando Pirates just three points off the summit, while Ernst Middendorp’s Kaizer Chiefs have put themselves back in the conversation after ending 2018 on a high. Amakhosi’s mettle will be tested when they host Sundowns in what should be a jam-packed FNB stadium, while Bucs face Highlands Park in what should be a cagey affair as well, not to mention the KZN derby between Golden Arrows and Maritzburg United.

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Friday 4 January

Chippa United 18/10
Draw 2/1
Bloem Celtic 31/20
(20:00)

Chippa United and Bloem Celtic battle it out on Friday night with both teams desperate to turn their recent fortunes around. Joel Masutha hasn’t found a winning formula yet, although there have been positive signs in his three games that he’s taken charge of so far. Masutha has deployed Thamsanqa Sangweni as a third centre-back at times to help build out from the back and keep possession. For Celtic, it’s the same old. Their off-the-field issues continue to have a massive impact on their results, and surprisingly, Siwelele head into this game as favourites, despite losing four league matches in a row. At the Sisa Dukashe stadium, my money will be placed firmly on the Chilli Boys – plenty of value as well.

Saturday 5 January

Kaizer Chiefs 16/10
Draw 19/10
Sundowns 18/10
(15:30)

What a way for football to return in Mzansi as Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns lock horns in what is undoubtedly the tie of the round. A fixture that will have a massive say in the title race. If Chiefs lose this match, they can forget about the league, while Sundowns could also feel that too much ground is being lost in the wake of Bidvest Wits and Orlando Pirates’ success. Chiefs have chopped and changed head coaches in 2018, with no less than four being named at the helm. The worst of the lot being Giovanni Solinas, however, Ernst Middendorp has taken over the crumbling pieces left behind by the Italian, winning his first three games in charge of Amakhosi – keeping clean sheets in all three of those encounters. Sundowns are still on course to end the season off as invincibles, and if Masandawana can avoid defeat at tricky grounds like these, then why not for Pitso Mosimane’s men? One downfall for the champions, though, is that they have failed to beat Chiefs in the last four meetings – despite the club being in a better position than the Glamour Boys all this time. Boring prediction, but perhaps a safe one – back the draw here at 19/10.

Polokwane City 1/1
Draw 21/10
AmaZulu 28/10
(15:30)

Polokwane City will be hoping to emulate their first half of the season when they get back onto the field with a home tie against AmaZulu. Rise And Shine sit in fourth place, six points adrift of the top of the table, but have won just one of their last six matches before the Christmas interval. Usuthu were hitting full stride just before the break, winning four of their last five encounters. Had it not been for FIFA deducting six points from AmaZulu, the Durban-based side would even be above Kaizer Chiefs in sixth place. Cavin Johnson’s men are difficult to break down, as they’ve shown this season, so I’m backing another stalemate between these two sides.

Free State Stars 33/10
Draw 22/10
Bidvest Wits 17/20
(18:00)

On paper, this should be relatively comfortable to predict with top-placed, Bidvest Wits, travelling to Goble Park to take on a struggling Free State Stars outfit. Gavin Hunt’s men have had their way with Stars already this season, smashing them 3-0 in the reverse fixture, while the Students also dumped Ea Lla Koto out of the Telkom Knockout Cup. Hunt has really done a remarkable job at Wits, and if he manages to keep the consistency at a high level, then perhaps the ‘Big Three’ could be formed into a ‘Big Four’, that is, of course, if they continue to battle it out at the top of the pile. Get on the visiting team here to extend their lead at the top.

Highlands Park 5/2
Draw 21/10
Orlando Pirates 11/10
(20:15)

Siyabangena siyabahlaba! Highlands Park will look to achieve what they have never done before, by beating Orlando Pirates. The sides have met just four times, with Bucs dumping Highlands Park out of the cup on one occasion, while they have drawn all three league meetings. Both the Lions of the North and Pirates have been on a high this season, with Owen Da Gama’s men currently being in the top eight, while the Sea Robbers find themselves in yet another title race. Mothobi Mvala has been a sensation for the home side with seven goals to his tally so far. His attacking exploits will certainly be missed as the Lions of the North will miss their frontman due to suspension. Pirates have a suspension of their own in Marshall Munetsi, although new acquisition, Alfred Ndengane, could be in line to fill the void and make his league debut for the Sea Robbers here. Highlands Park will be much weaker in attack without Mvala, so I’d suggest you take Pirates to edge it at 11/10.

SuperSport United 12/10
Draw 21/10
Cape Town City 22/10
(20:15)

SuperSport United and Cape Town City will square off at the Lucas Moripe stadium late on Saturday evening. For many, these are the two best teams outside the now ‘Big Four’, with Matsatsantsa sitting in third spot at the moment. Cape Town City will meet SuperSport United again in the Nedbank Cup later this month, and will look to give Kermit Erasmus his debut after returning from overseas. City have been fluid in their passing, been brilliant on the counter, but have been shaky in defence. Benni McCarthy’s men grinded out a 2-0 victory in the reverse fixture and I’m expecting more to come from this City side. Back the away win here at 22/10.

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Sunday 6 January

Golden Arrows 11/10
Draw 21/10
Maritzburg United 5/2
(15:30)

We could be in for another exciting KZN derby, especially after Golden Arrows parted ways with Clinton Larsen and recruited Steve Komphela. That was, of course, shortly after Maritzburg United dismissed Fadlu Davids of his services at the Team of Choice, with Muhsin Ertugral being named as his successor. Arrows are off the back of a Durban derby in which they lost 2-0 to AmaZulu, but prior to that, Abafana Bes'thende had drew with Wits and beat Chiefs. Maritzburg have actually been an eyesore this term, winning just once all season with just one goal in their last five games. Back Arrows here at 11/10.

Baroka FC 12/10
Draw 21/10
Black Leopards 22/10
(15:30)

What a memorable year it was for Baroka FC who claimed their first trophy in 2018, beating Orlando Pirates in a penalty-shootout to lift the Telkom Knockout Cup. Many expected the Limpopo giants to crumble after their success, but that wasn’t the case as they held Sundowns to a goalless draw and managed a 1-0 victory away to Maritzburg United. Dylan Kerr registered his first win as Leopards boss, ending 2018 off on a high after beating AmaZulu 3-1 at home. A fixture away from home will prove to be much more trickier, though. Leopards are one of three teams yet to win on the road this season, and with many of the big teams ready to scout Baroka’s players, they will be going all-out to impress. My money is on Bagkaka here!

TREBLE @ 10/1
Chippa United Win 18/10
Bidvest Wits Win 17/20
Baroka FC Win 12/10

Written by Jesse Nagel