TFGSoccerClubwriter DYLAN APPOLIS picks out six players who could play a starring role when Mamelodi Sundowns welcome Orlando Pirates in the Absa Premiership on Saturday.
The Absa Premiership giants will renew their rivalry when they square off in a mouth-watering encounter looking to claim maximum points at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday after Sundowns cruised to a 3-1 victory over Free State Stars, while Pirates secured a 2-1 victory over Polokwane City in their previous league encounter.
The win saw the Brazilians move up to third place with 17 points from nine games, while the Buccaneers overtook Bidvest Wits at the top of the table with 22 points after 12 matches.
Mamelodi Sundowns Key Players
The Uruguayan international has begun to hit top form for Sundowns and is slowly filling the void left by Percy Tau and Khama Billiat, who left the club to join Premier League outfit Brighton & Hove Albion and Kaizer Chiefs respectively.
Sirino managed to score a brace in his last showing for Pitso Mosimane’s side to help them claim their second win in the Absa Premiership this season with a well-deserved victory over Ea Lla Koto on Wednesday.
His inclusion in the squad could prove key to Sundowns’ hope of making three wins out of the three in the PSL, having already bagged four goals and assisted a further two from 11 appearances in all competitions so far this campaign.
Mosimane’s views on Sirino: ‘I told you at the beginning of the season that in my opinion, I think he will contest for Footballer of the Year at the end of this season. He’s not only scoring, but he is also providing the goals.’
Sundowns signed Maboe on a long-term deal in August from Maritzburg United, and he has made a decent start to his tenure at Chloorkop. He has already found the back of the net on two occasions while creating one from 13 appearances for the club.
The Brazilians’ upcoming fixture will give Maboe a chance to further showcase his talent as a playmaker in a star-studded Sundowns side as he continues to impress.
The 24-year-old has already established himself as one of the team’s main distributors and has become a regular in the Sundowns set-up.
Maboe said: ‘I am looking to better the tally of goals I scored last season. I just want to help the team do good and help them win trophies.
‘If I get into the right positions, I can score a lot of goals. That’s what I am getting to understand now and I am getting to get into those good scoring opportunities.’
The 28-year-old played a leading role in Sundowns’ win over Stars and managed to last the whole 90 minutes on the pitch and has now made eight appearances in all competitions, although he is yet to open his account for Sundowns.
Jali has not been part of the Bafana Bafana squad since joining the Brazilians from Belgian outfit KV Oostende, but his recent performances could convince national team coach Stuart Baxter to consider him in the squad, despite everything he has been going through off the field.
The former Orlando Pirates midfielder’s experience will surely be an asset for the club when they take on the Buccaneers if he can manage to continue his current form.
Mosimane had nothing but kind words for the midfielder: ‘Andile Jali is a very good football player. He played well [against Baroka]. He is Bafana material and we are happy with him. Our job at Sundowns is to make sure he plays more and better than the way he is playing. You can see how he defends, you can see how he distributes the ball.’
Orlando Pirates Key Players
Since arriving from Bidvest Wits in July, Pule has been an influential figure for the Buccaneers, helping them to obtain positive results with crucial goals and assists. The 26-year-old has already racked up 12 appearances in all competitions while bagging five goals and three assists in the process.
The in-form attacker, who was on the bench for their clash against Polokwane City in their last league encounter, will be itching to take to the field after scoring the winning goal against Amakhosi in his last outing for the club.
Ahead of their crucial clash against Sundowns, Pule said: ‘There is so much pressure in derby games because of the expectation of the fans, so to score in such a big game is very encouraging.
‘We now need to build on this result and that momentum, we need to keep winning and doing well for the fans.’
The Zambian international is slowly starting to find his form in a Pirates jersey this season and most recently proved his doubters wrong when he ended his 12-match dry run by scoring a sublime free kick to hand the Buccaneers maximum points in their last encounter against Rise and Shine at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old has already found the back of the net twice this season against Highlands Park and Polokwane City while assisting two goals from 14 appearances overall. He will be eager to add to his tally and continue his form.
Shonga and his teammate and countryman Augustine Mulenga are likely to start for the Sea Robbers at Loftus Stadium on Saturday.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic defended Shonga by stating the following: ‘We as a technical team are watching and we have trust, confidence and belief in him; his teammates have trust, confidence and belief in him.
‘These [assists] are something of more value because when you assist, two people are happy – you, because you assisted, plus the one that has scored. So, we are very satisfied.’
The 25-year-old has been one of the Buccaneers’ standout performers this season and has recently been in great form for the club, and has subsequently earned another call-up to the Bafana set-up.
The former Cape Town All Stars player is close to surpassing his best form of the 2016-17 campaign, which saw him score five goals and created five assists from 28 appearances. However, in 12 appearances he is close beating his personal record, having already bagged four goals and two assists this campaign.
Speaking on his form, Lorch said: ‘I have been working really hard and I am glad my work has been rewarded.’
‘Coach Rulani [Mokwena] is one individual I always speak to on and off the pitch. He always reminds me to continue believing in myself and to work hard.’
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix