JOHANNESBURG, January 4 – The first true heavyweight Absa Premiership battle of the New Year sees Kaizer Chiefs host Mamelodi Sundowns at FNB Stadium in Soweto on Saturday afternoon (start 3:30pm).
Chiefs will be looking to pick up where they left off in 2018, having beaten SuperSport United 1-0 at home in their final league match of the year.
The Amakhosi have claimed 11 points from seven home matches this season. As hosts, they have lost matches to Bidvest Wits and Polokwane City in the 2018/19 season.
Sundowns maintained their record as the only unbeaten team in the league this season – but played to a seventh draw in the space of 12 matches – when they were held 0-0 at home by Baroka FC last month.
The Brazilians have claimed 14 points from six away matches this season, with their last result on the road a 2-1 win at Tshwane rivals SuperSport United in early December.
When the teams met earlier this season in Tshwane they played to a 1-1 draw, with goals from Ricardo Nascimento and Ramahlwe Mphahlele resulting in a share of the spoils.
The Amakhosi are unbeaten in their last four league matches against the Brazilians.
Coach Ernst Middendorp said it was always a pleasure to have competitive games against people like Pitso Mosimane.
“He has ideas, I have ideas. He’s been in this business long enough to know how to approach these types of games.”
Meanwhile, Chiefs attacker Lebogang Manayama had these views. “Right now, we’re in a good phase. The confidence levels are high, the energy levels are high.
“We’re taking it one game at a time and improving with every training session. We need to get the team back to where it belongs.”
As for Mosimane, he admits Sundowns need to make up ground. “We need to catch up. We need to try and win at the FNB Stadium,” he said.
“It’s not easy to go to there with a new coach. Okay, we don’t lose, to be honest at FNB, but also we don’t win easily.
“Middendorp is a tough, top disciplinarian and the players look like they are responding,” added Mosimane.
One of Chiefs’ key players will be Khama Billiat and the former Brazilians attacker will be eager to impress against his former employers as the Amakhosi aim to continue their resurgence under Middendorp.
With four goals and four assists in the league this season, Billiat is Chiefs’ main attacking threat and arguably the best player in the league – something he will be aiming to prove once more against the reigning league champions.
For Sundowns Gaston Sirino could play a vital role. The Uruguayan has gone a long way in filling the void left by Billiat, alongside the likes of Lebohang Maboe who has also impressed.
Mosimane will be looking to his attacking wizard to turn on the style in Soweto as Sundowns aim to reel in league leaders Bidvest Wits. (ANA)