MAMELODI SUNDOWNS: Defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns have not started their league campaign yet, but are already favourites to retain their league title. After one game – MTN8 – Sundowns look set to continue with their dominance.
Downs looked ominous against SuperSport United, and those who bet their last cents that the championship will remain in Tshwane could be handsomely rewarded at the end of the season.
Last weekend, they picked up where they left off last season and the question is: Who will stop Sundowns?
Barring a disaster, this team should not have too much trouble finishing in the top two or even retaining the championship. But it’s impossible not to feel optimistic about trophies and success when Pitso Mosimane is your coach.
BIDVEST WITS: Can Bidvest Wits go the extra mile and wrestle the title away from Sundowns? Gavin Hunt is entering his fourth year at the helm and if it is not a success, he is gone. His Students have won some applause following their free lessons to Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates last week.
After finishing second to Sundowns last season, Hunt is surely eyeing the championship. And with the kind of squad he has assembled, he might just be able to do so, but it will take something extraordinary to beat Mosimane to the crown. Will their participation in the CAF Champions League next year affect their domestic campaign?
ORLANDO PIRATES: Pirates fans should be in a good mood. With the arrival of coach Muhsin Ertugral and a host of players, Bucs faithful are optimistic about the season, despite being knocked out of the MTN8 by Wits. Last season was a disaster for the Buccaneers, and following a seventh-place finish, any Bucs supporter who claims they know what to expect is lying. There are definite hopes and maybe even some achievable targets, but nobody has any idea how it will play out. Either way, it will probably be entertaining. Pirates need to make the top four and win a piece of silverware for the season to be a success.
SUPERSPORT UNITED: Stuart Baxter has already lost two games on the trot and will have to turn things around quickly. Just like last season, United have been the busiest on the market and Baxter will be hoping for a better return on investment this time around. With the kind of money they have spent on the market and the calibre of players he has brought in, the Englishman should fancy his chances of challenging for the league honours. The likes of Tefu Mashamaite and Aubrey Modiba should be able to lift the club.
TOP EIGHT CONTENDERS
KAIZER CHIEFS: Without a major signing, Amakhosi are probably just short of being a title favourite. But if Steve Komphela can turn things around at Amakhosi, things could get interesting. Even after reconstructive surgery during the transfer window, Chiefs still lack a proven striker and a creative midfielder. They will hope their new signings add some punch up top. But their chances of winning the league do not look anywhere near as good as they did two seasons ago under Baxter. Komphela is already on the back foot after losing two games.
CHIPPA UNITED: You may not always see good football, but if you want excitement, start watching the Chilli Boys under Dan Malesela.
Largely thanks the stewardship of Malesela, Chippa have enjoyed a remarkable rise over the past few seasons. They easily dismantled Free State Stars in their opening game and have also booked a place in the semifinals of the MTN8 after beating Platinum Stars. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.
PLATINUM STARS : Finishing third last season was their best achievement considering they were flirting with relegation the season before. This season, however, will not be as easy as Stars have qualified for the CAF Confederations Cup and this will stretch them beyond their imagination. They have a balancing act to do if they are to be a force to be reckoned with. Stars started well with a morale-boosting victory over SuperSport United, but were brought down to earth by Chippa in the MTN8. As long as they do not find themselves in the relegation zone, their supporters should be happy.
CAPE TOWNCITY: Back-to-back victories over Polokwane City and Kaizer Chiefs introduced the “new” baby to the Premiership. Coach Eric Tinkler could not have asked for a better start than the one he got, as well as qualifying for the MTN8 semifinal. The two victories should spur his players on, especially those who were deemed surplus at their former clubs, such as Tshepo Gumede and Lehlohonolo Majoro.
AJAX CAPE TOWN: Winning last season’s MTN8 seemed to be their undoing as they never recovered from the hangover. But with no MTN8 to worry about after finishing outside the top eight, the Urban Warriors should channel all their efforts to the league campaign. A solid start is what Roger De Sá wants, and earning a point away at Baroka was not a bad result, although he would have hoped for three. Unlike before, Ajax have done reasonably well on the market by capturing the likes of Lebohang Mokoena and Mark Mayambela, but the departure of Abbubaker Mobara and Riyaad Norodien might hurt them.
GOLDEN ARROWS: The boss lady’s club is on a mission to improve on last season’s ninth finish. With Mato Madlala at the helm of the PSL, she will want to see her club also doing well on the field. Clinton Larsen has a lot to offer to Arrows, but will need all the support he can get to avoid flirting with relegation.
MARITZBURG UNITED: After surviving the drop to the NFD last season, United started this season on a high by winning away at Bloemfontein Celtic. Ernst Middendorp promised that things would change and it seems he was right – the club has opted for experienced players. The club is also investing in transfers, with the likes of Bevan Fransman joining up.
BLOEMFONTEIN CELTIC: Serame Letsoaka started where he left off last season – with another loss. Celtic have been busy on the market and, with the personnel he brought in, Letsoaka was hoping for a good start, but it was not to be as they lost to Maritzburg. This season is the one in which to have some fun or give up hope of ever conquering the league. Their supporters deserve something after suffering for so long with nothing to show for their loyalty.
FREE STATE STARS: For the past few seasons, Stars have been a boring team – no wonder they have changed coaches every season. Last season, Giovanni Solinas came to save the day, and the Italian came with a reputation, but bid them farewell at the end of the season. The uncertainty regarding the future of the club could be their undoing. They have not been active on the market as one would have expected them to be, considering they lost a few of their star players. It’s going to be difficult for Stars who are – on paper – one of the weakest teams in the league.
POLOKWANE CITY: Flirting with relegation is never the right kind of exciting, and this is what City supporters have been exposed to since the team won promotion. For this season, you can expect more of the same. City are without Cole Alexander, who has joined SuperSport. Their new Belgian coach, Luc Eymael, has a lot to do if he is to finish the season still at the helm.
BAROKA FC: Like all other newly promoted sides, Baroka head into the season simply hoping to avoid immediate relegation. This is the first time they’ve made it to the top of the pyramid and, though it’s a great story, no one will really care if they are back in the lower divisions a year from now. But it is very hard to predict which way Bakgaga will go. They have a squad of questionable quality and lacking in Premiership experience, but their rapid rise and ambitious playing style can save them. Coach Kgoloko Thobejane has sent a warning to his rivals that the Limpopo side will continue with their giant-killing spree. But it will not be as easy as the over-confident Thobejane thinks. They started their life in the Premiership with a draw against Ajax Cape Town.
HIGHLANDS PARK: Judging by how aggressive they have been on the market, Highlands have a chance of survival, but exactly how good a chance remains to be seen. They have one simple, yet very difficult goal: surviving relegation. Anything better than that would be impressive. Having been there before with Platinum Stars, coach Allan Freese knows what it takes to survive in the Premiership. But he also knows that only positive results would prolong his stay at the newly promoted Highlands.
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