Johannesburg - With the end of the year’s Premiership action approaching, SuperSport United boss Cavin Johnson says it is vital for his soccer team to reduce the five point margin between them and log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
"That is the one thing outside of the training and the effort you put in... is that one statistic that will probably motivate my players a bit better than it has in the past," Johnson said ahead of Monday’s derby tie.
SuperSport host their fierce neighbouring rivals at Loftus Versfeld, in Pretoria, on Monday, and Johnson says he is relishing the clash with Sundowns, as it is an opportunity for Matsatsantsa to keep in touch with the teams at the top of the standings.
"It’s always a good game against Sundowns," Johnson added.
"Hopefully we’ll be able to get it into my players’ heads that they are five points off the leaders and once upon a time, not so long ago, we were five points above them.
"So, the players have to push themselves in order to get there and I’m hoping they’ll be able to do that."
Sundowns have been in good form early in the season and look like leading the Premiership when the games come to an end next weekend, before resuming early next year.
Johnson believes Sundowns' coach Pitso Mosimane will have added incentive to beat United.
He was in charge of the Pretoria outfit before being appointed assistant coach at Bafana Bafana, a position he held for several years prior to taking over as head coach.
"Pitso has worked before at SuperSport. Whenever you go up against your old club, whether it’s five years ago, 10 years ago, or six months ago, you always want to do better.
"At Sundowns, he has a good crop of players and against SuperSport he’ll come with his best team."
SuperSport led the league earlier this season, but a series of poor results resulted in them relinquishing their lead to Sundowns, who have looked solid at the top.
With 18 points from their opening 11 outings, Johnson’s side are level on points with Moroka Swallows and currently occupy fifth position.
They trail Platinum Stars, Kaizer Chiefs and Wits.
The former Platinum Stars' mentor said he was wary of this time of year, when the rest of the country was winding down and he had to motivate his players to remain focused with two fixtures still to play before 2014.
"When you look at the previous hiccups we had in the league, then you think to yourself, the stop and start thing all over again.
"For me, that’s the one thing at this time of the year that’s very worrying, because everybody else around you is in a festive mood and you have to be in a working mood.
"You have to try and play devil’s advocate among your players. We just hope we got that right, but we’ve prepared as best as we can for the game."
United could do the rest of the chasing pack a favour by beating Mosimane’s troops, with Chiefs just two points behind and looking like reclaiming their place at the summit of the standings.
Premiership fixtures: Monday: Golden Arrows v AmaZulu (3.30pm) (King Zwelithini Stadium), Platinum Stars v Orlando Pirates (3.30pm) (Royal Bafokeng Stadium), Mpumalanga Black Aces v Free State Stars (3.30pm) (Kanyamazane Stadium), SuperSport United v Mamelodi Sundowns (6pm) (Loftus Versfeld), Maritzburg United v Wits (6pm) (Harry Gwala Stadium), Kaizer Chiefs v University of Pretoria (8.15pm) (FNB Stadium).