Cape Town - Sport24's Baden Gillion dissects the 'Big 4' Absa Premiership teams heading into 2018 while predicting who will be crowned league champions - and who will be left fighting relegation.
STANDINGS: Latest Absa Premiership log
Mamelodi Sundowns are the bookies’ clear favourites to lift the Absa Premiership trophy and I expect the current league leaders to run away with the league. Masandawana are the only club left who are willing to spend big on players and can blow other teams away with their financial power. Coach Pitso Mosimane though doesn’t have the best record for identifying and nurturing talent as Rama G has shown us this season on more than one occasion. But the Brazilians’ relentless drive led by Mosimane and owner Patrice Motsepe to succeed domestically and in Africa will see Masandawana steamroll their rivals in the run-in to the season's end.
It’s questionable whether coach Steve Komphela has improved Kaizer Chiefs since taking over the reins from Stuart Baxter. Komphela has on far too many occasions made questionable team selections with his loyalty to ageing players making Amakhosi predictable. Komphela’s poor management and a new recruitment strategy of making bargain deals in acquiring free agents have left Chiefs a shadow of their former self.
Since his appointment Milutin Sredojevic has visually made Orlando Pirates a more organised and better balanced side. His close relationship with club owner Irvin Khoza sees him more secure in the post and gives him a position of power over his players. The overriding problem that Pirates face though is that the ailing Iron Duke calls all the shots at a dysfunctional club. It’s a badly kept secret that players are often signed and sold without the knowledge of the coach which leads to disharmony. Pirates will always struggle for success if the club continues to run in the same manner.
The fall of the current Absa Premiership champions has been uncomfortable to watch as they currently sit rock bottom of the log. The Clever Boys, who last season won their first ever league honours, have displayed their inexperience in defending a title. Key decisions, such as team selections have harmed the club’s form and morale. Players who do well one week are dropped to the bench or even sent to the stands. The team even once travelled on a match day and were soundly beaten. The blame always rests with the coach as Gavin Hunt has failed so far to get the best out of a talented squad.
In summary, my prediction for the remainder of an unpredictable 2017/18 season is that Sundowns will cough and splutter their way to the league title - in a campaign where everyone has struggled for consistency.
The league is filled with 'organised chaos' with constant mistakes being interrupted by rare moments of brilliance. Sundowns just happen to possess more talent who can pull off the extraordinary.
Teams who could face the drop are a AmaZulu who lack quality throughout the team; Platinum Stars whose ownership situation has affected the club; and Ajax Cape Town whose owners have steadily led the club to the relegation zone.