Johannesburg - There might still be 11 games to go before the end of the soccer season, but the survival battle is already in full swing and the fight to avoid relegation promises to be ferocious.
At the rate things are going in the Absa Premiership, any of the eight bottom sides could go down at the end of the season as no one is out of the woods yet.
These clubs are still up to their necks in trouble in the final straight of the season.
With every game played, the Premier League survival battle might be becoming clearer with Baroka and Highlands Park looking doomed and increasingly cut adrift at the bottom.
Three of the bottom sides are involved in six pointers on Sunday afternoon and time is no longer on their side.
Free State Stars, third from the bottom, could take a huge leap towards survival by beating Highlands Park at James Motlatsi Stadium, while Baroka entertain neighbours Polokwane City in the Limpopo derby.
With a four-point gap between Stars and Highlands Park, a victory for Serame Letsoaka’s side will widen the gap and give them breathing space.
On the other hand, Gordon Igesund will be looking to close the gap but trips to Goble Park Stadium are never easy for any side in the league.
Igesund has not been able to change the fortunes of the Lions of the North and they are increasingly staring at relegation. Time is not on their side – if they don’t start winning matches, they will be back in the National First Division.
Interestingly, the two sides will meet again in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup next week.
They will have to get their priorities right – whether they want to secure their Premiership status, go all the way in the cup competition or both. The choice is theirs.
With just two victories under their belt, Baroka look like their time in the Premiership is limited as they have found things too hard to handle in the top-flight league.
After conceding eight goals in their past two matches against Bidvest Wits and Cape Town City, they need a miracle to stay afloat.
City could add to their woes as they are also searching for their maiden win of the year after going six games without a victory – playing four draws and losing two.
Although they have been playing well lately, their undoing has been missing endless chances and opening up at the back.
For Baroka, the sooner they forget about their past two games the better, as the damage has already been done. They now need to focus on the job at hand and make sure they win as many games as possible.
Baroka were boosted by the availability of new signings Hélder Pelembe of Mozambique and Mpho Kgaswane from Botswana ahead of Sunday's derby.
But whether the two will be able to help arrest their team’s decline remains to be seen.