Sundowns know what they must do to reel in PSL leaders Chiefs
Mamelodi Sundowns will begin the task of trying to reel in Absa Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs when the Brazilians meet AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday night.
Unlike other PSL teams, apart from Bidvest Wits, Sundowns had a meagre two days over New Year's to spend with their families and rest from a hectic continental and domestic schedule before resuming training on Thursday.
Downs’ consolation for effectively having to cancel Christmas was that their 1-0 away win against USM Alger just outside Algiers on December 28 leaves them on top of the 2019-20 Caf Champions League’s Group C and excellently placed to reach the quarterfinals.
Back in the PSL, Pitso Mosimane’s Sundowns have reason for optimism too.
Chiefs, surprisingly given their record-low ninth placing last season, could have gone into the Christmas break with an intimidating nine-point gap. Given Amakhosi have no continental commitments, that could have been some buffer for challengers — and there is little doubt that defending champions Sundowns are the most dangerous chasers — to reel in.
But Chiefs drew their last league game of 2019 1-1 away against tough Maritzburg United, which allowed Sundowns, who edged a 1-0 win at home against Polokwane City, to reduce the gap by a psychologically less imposing seven points.
Chiefs, too — as they stormed to 11 wins, two draws and just one defeat from 14 games in the 2019 section of 2019-20 — were never really put under pressure by an on-form chasing team.
Sundowns won a number of games by 1-0 margins. That is easily understandable, really, because grinding results can become a necessity for a team competing on multiple fronts, including the Champions League (ACL) and winning the Telkom Knockout.
Downs still have the ACL group and knockout stages to think about. But they have managed such missions impossible before in their half decade of continental ambition that saw them become ACL champions in 2016.
And they will take it as a huge sign of their ability to defend their PSL title that they managed, through a tough schedule, and without hitting full flow, to remain within seven points of an on-form Chiefs by Christmas.
Downs will be content to continue notching the points and wins, and keep the pressure on Chiefs. Because that knowledge that they cannot afford any slip-ups has the potential to weigh heavily on an Amakhosi already under considerable pressure to reverse their previous unprecedented four seasons without a trophy.
PSL this weekend:
- Maritzburg United 2 Lamontville Golden Arrows 1
- Stellenbosch FC v Bidvest Wits (Cape Town Stadium‚ 3.30pm)
- Bloemfontein Celtic v Orlando Pirates (Dr Molemela Stadium‚ 3.30pm)
- Polokwane City v Chippa United (Peter Mokaba Stadium‚ 3.30pm)
- SuperSport United v Kaizer Chiefs (Mbombela Stadium‚ 6pm)
- AmaZulu v Mamelodi Sundowns (Moses Mabhida Stadium‚ 8.15pm)
- Highlands Park v Black Leopards (Makhulong Stadium‚ 3.30pm)
- Cape Town City v Baroka FC (Cape Town Stadium‚ 3.30pm)