The perennial champions vs the sleeping giants. Treble-chasing Mamelodi Sundowns take on Kaizer Chiefs, who are looking to end their longest-ever trophy drought in a potential title decider on Thursday evening. SoccerClub writer DEAN WORKMAN picks out six players who could prove decisive in the clash.
The two giants of South African football meet at the Orlando Stadium, with Chiefs sitting just three points ahead of Downs in the title race.
Pitso Mosimane’s charges may have returned rusty following the Covid-19 interruptions, but a 1-0 win over Golden Arrows moved them within striking distance of a Chiefs side who have topped the table almost throughout the campaign.
Only a difference of 3️⃣ points now, tomorrow the boys give it their all!💪
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) August 26, 2020
Ernst Middendorp’s men have also had their troubles since the restart and will be without the suspended Samir Nurkovic, while Leonardo Castro and Lebogang Manyama are injury doubtfuls.
Here are three players from each side who could make the difference …
1) Khama Billiat
The former Brazilian has struggled to find his top form for Chiefs this season while constantly struggling with niggling injuries. The Zimbabwean has also looked rusty since the restart and has struggled to adapt to Middendorp-style football.
However, a blockbuster clash with his former club might just be the inspiration Billiat needs to shine.
2) Lazarous Kambole
GOAL!!!!! Kambole scores!! Kaizer Chiefs 1 : 1 Stellenbosch FC. The Zambian international scores his first goal in the Black & Gold#AbuyileAmakhosi #AbsaPrem #KaizerChiefs50 pic.twitter.com/E8X4kYrZlv
— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) August 23, 2020
With both regular No 9s out for the clash, Kambole will have the perfect chance to kick-start his Chiefs career following his first goal for the club in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Stellenbosch FC.
The Zambian arrived at Naturena with a big reputation but has failed to live up to it just yet. He will, though, have a shot against Downs to add his name into Chiefs folklore by taking a massive step towards the title.
3) Daniel Akpeyi
The Nigerian has been the No 1 at Chiefs the whole season after seeing off the challenge of club great Itumeleng Khune.
Akpeyi has put in some standout performances this campaign which has led to vital points, most notably his heroics in the 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates in February. The Nigeria international is capable of reproducing a similar showing against Downs, which would undoubtedly aid Chiefs in their title bid.
⚽️Kaizer Chiefs vs. Mamelodi Sundowns
📆Thursday 27 August 2020
📢NO FANS ALLOWED INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE STADIUM!!!!#Amakhosi4Life #KaizerChiefs50 pic.twitter.com/SARVgOqav6
— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) August 27, 2020
1) Rivaldo Coetzee
‘Rivaldo is an unbelievable player – he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. Sometimes people don’t like him and I don’t know why they don’t like him. He is an accurate passer with the right and left foot and he wins headers in the midfield – brings the ball back. But it takes time, maybe people will start realising why we pick him sometimes,’Mosimane told journalists after his side’s win over Arrows.
The former Ajax Cape Town man has had his injury issues but now has the trust and faith of his coach. Coetzee will not only be instrumental in Sundowns’ passing game against Chiefs, but his ability in the air will also be tested by a team whose game revolves around long balls and set pieces.
2) Themba Zwane
The Bafana Bafana international may have been a ghost of himself since the restart, but he came off the bench to score a 90th-minute winner against Arrows on Monday night.
Zwane is one of the league’s best talents and will undoubtedly have been boosted by his winning goal. Now, with the chance to move level on points with the league leaders heading into the final stretch and a possible treble on the line, Zwane will be motivated to steal the show.
Form is temporary but class is permanent!🙌
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) August 25, 2020
3) Gaston Sirino
The Uruguayan missed the first few games of the restart through suspension, but now has minutes under his belt and will undoubtedly be hungry to make his mark in the title race.
Sirino’s skill, pace and aggression will prove a handful for a Chiefs backline which has looked shaky since the restart. The forward will be looking to take advantage of their deficiencies and fire his side to victory on Thursday evening.
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