Sundowns in the hot seat
Johannesburg - The pressure is firmly on Mamelodi Sundowns to improve their recent slump in form and claw back to the top of the Premiership standings when they meet Black Leopards in Polokwane on Wednesday evening.
After setting the pace for the last four months, Sundowns were dethroned by Orlando Pirates on Monday with the defending champions taking a three-point lead over the Pretoria side.
"All the players in the team understand the importance of collecting all three points [against Leopards]," defender Siyanda Xulu told the club's website on Tuesday.
"We need to get back to winning ways and reclaim our position at the top of the table, regardless of Leopards' current form."
The Brazilians' recent run has been lukewarm as they come off three successive goalless draws - two of them at home.
Johan Neeskens' team, however, have had a solid campaign, losing only twice in their 23 games, and Xulu sent the hosts a warning that they would get back to winning ways in their midweek clash.
"We might have only won one match in the last four league matches, with Leopards enjoying a good run of late, but they must not expect another draw," Xulu said.
"We will be playing like we are fighting for our lives."
Despite their slump in front of goal, Sundowns' tally of 37 strikes remains the most of any team this season.
With either Nyasha Mushekwi or Katlego Mphela up front, and Richard Henyekane as their understudy, Downs carry some of the league's most formidable marksmen.
They will also be bolstered by the return of inspirational captain Teko Modise, expected to add the creative spark that was missing in midfield when he served a one-match suspension in their 0-0 draw against Golden Arrows last week.
Leopards, meanwhile, will enter the fixture with just one training session, on Tuesday morning, since returning from their CAF Confederation Cup commitments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the weekend.
They will go into the match with added confidence after progressing to the second round of the continental competition.
The Limpopo outfit's coach, Vladislav Heric, said he expected a hard fought battle against arguably the country's most formidable squad.
"It will be difficult, that we know for sure," said Heric, who did not travel with the team to the DRC for medical reasons.
"I mean, Sundowns are the cream of the league, with a good coach and great players, but I know my team and they will play their hearts out."
Lidoda Duvha are fresh off three successive league victories, easing their relegation woes, including a stunning 1-0 win over title contenders Kaizer Chiefs last week.
They are 14th on the log with seven games left to climb further up the table.
Leopards will be sweating on the fitness of some of their key players - goalkeeper Postnett Omony, striker Rodney Ramagalela and midfielder Thabo Mongalo, who suffered ailments in Lubumbashi last week.
"It is a bit early to tell, but we will see how things go before the match," Heric said.
"I will hear what my medical team says and take it from there."