Cape Town - With nine matches for most still to be played before the end of the 2019/20 Absa Premiership season concludes, the battle to avoid relegation is heating up with the potential financial impact on teams bigger than ever before.
Just three points separate the bottom four teams with the 16th-placed team facing automatic relegation and the team finishing 15th heading into a promotion/relegation playoff.
As things stand the bottom four sides in/around the relegation zone are:
13th - Baroka: Played 21 | GD -6 | Points 20
14th - Black Leopards: Played 20 | GD -10 | Points 20
15th - AmaZulu: Played 21 | GD -12 | Points 20
16th - Polokwane: Played 21 | GD -12 | Points 17
The potential financial impact for these teams is huge with a monthly grant of R2.5 million handed out in the Absa Premiership compared to R500 000 in the GladAfrica championship.
These figures are set to increase further with the PSL announcing revenues of over R1 billion for the first time in the history of the league in 2019.
Manager Wedson Nyirenda has led his side to 5 wins in 21 matches played with a points-per-game ratio of 0.95 with two wins and three defeats in their last five league fixtures. Baroka will be desperate for an unlikely win against Bidvest Wits on Saturday to pull themselves clear of the teams below.
With 20 points from 20 games played, Lidoda Duvha has a points-per-game ratio of 1 with one win and a draw in their last five games. Dylan Kerr will be hoping to inspire his side to a late push up the table beginning against the in-form Orlando Pirates on Sunday.
The Durban-based side with 20 points from 21 games played has a points-per-game ratio of 0.95 with one win and a draw from their last five games. Jozef Vukusic will be hoping to steady a wounded ship in rocky waters after the news that five senior players have been suspended. Things are looking bleak for Usuthu with behind-the-scenes chaos but they will be aiming to create some daylight between themselves and an automatic relegation spot against Golden Arrows on Saturday.
The writing seems to be on the wall for Clinton Larsen's side with 17 points from 21 games played for a points-per-game ratio of 0.80 and three points adrift at the bottom of the table. Rise and Shine managed one draw and four defeats in their last five games including a deflating defeat to AmaZulu. They will be desperate to salvage their season and muster a win at home to Cape Town City on Sunday.
With wins hard to come by it's difficult to see any significant changes to the league table with the two relegation spots likely to be filled by any of these four teams.
The Absa Premiership though is often an unpredictable league that can throw up shock results.
If any of the four teams were to somehow grab a couple of wins they could potentially shoot up the standings, with just six points separating Highlands Park in eighth and Baroka in 13th.
This offers a glimmer of hope to any of the bottom-placed sides.
The approaching basement battle, with the four teams most affected all located in rich footballing regions Limpopo or KwaZulu-Natal, may yet prove to be more enthralling than the title race with even more to play for.
As we move into the business end of the season the future of these clubs and their player's livelihoods will be on the line.