Johannesburg - Luc Eymael has returned to the side that he was supposed to be coaching – and this time, it’s official.
Bloemfontein Celtic will not know where they might have ended up last season had the Belgian been allowed to take up his post with them instead of being sidelined. Perhaps Eymael would still be with Phunya Sele Sele had he not been ordered to return to Polokwane City following his much-publicised controversial move from that club last season.
Never a dull moment
But that was then, and Celtic’s loss has proved to be Free State Stars’ gain as the coach resurfaced at the Bethlehem-based club this season.
Just four months on from his appointment, he has already made an impressive start. Stars’ 2-1 victory over Golden Arrows on Wednesday was just what the team needed going into Sunday's encounter.
Eymael will return to familiar surroundings in Bloemfontein when he leads Stars against Phunya Sele Sele in his first Free State derby.
There is never a dull moment when these two sides meet, and the match – taking place at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium – should prove no different.
Clearly, Eymael has been able to instil his playing philosophy at Stars as the team are performing much better than they did last season.
Celtic have shown their mettle too, in contrast to their struggle last season, to emerge from the bottom half of the log standings.
The arrival of Serbian mentor Veselin Jelušic has given Celtic the motivation they needed to rise from the bottom of the log and reach the final of the Telkom Knockout, which they lost to Bidvest Wits last weekend.
They were denied a chance to redeem themselves on Wednesday after their league game against AmaZulu was abandoned because of a waterlogged pitch.
Sunday’s game will give Phunya Sele Sele the opportunity to bounce back from their loss in the Telkom Knockout final – and they could not have asked for better opponents than their provincial rivals.
Having lost their previous league game to Orlando Pirates, Celtic will be looking to return to their winning ways.
Jelušic has succeeded in bringing out the best in Lantshene Phalane and Kabelo Mahlasela, both of whom have been a marvel to watch lately.
Wandisile Letlabika is playing well as a Celtic defender, as is the hard-working Alfred Ndengane.
Stars will be relying on Edward Manqele and Mohammed Anas to unlock the Celtic defence.
Elsewhere, rejuvenated Mamelodi Sundowns visit Golden Arrows at Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu.
After their 4-0 demolition of Baroka FC, the Brazilians will be looking to build on that victory and consolidate their position at the top.
Back to winning ways
Pitso Mosimane’s side was in a mean mood against Baroka, and a similar display will go a long way towards defining their season.
Percy Tau, who scored two goals against Baroka, will be looking to continue where he left off on Wednesday.
But Arrows are no pushovers, especially as they know that a victory will take them above their opponents on the log. And they will be keen to get back to their winning ways after having lost to Free State Stars on Wednesday.
A fortnight ago, the Durban side threw away a two-goal lead in the last 10 minutes of their game against Ajax and ended up sharing the spoils.
Playing in front of their home supporters today should motivate them to bring the Brazilians down.