Those who are happy that domestic football is back in action should not expect things to be too different – reserve a little room for disappointment.
In this, the second round of fixtures for the new season, the favourites have already been established and it seems a fair bet that a Gauteng club will win the title – again.
Kaizer Chiefs started the season badly with back-to-back defeats; the more things change, the more they stay the same. Orlando Pirates are already perched at the top of the log after their recent 3-1 victory over Golden Arrows.
Highlands Park vs Baroka FC (Makhulong Stadium)
Highlands start their campaign in the elite league against a familiar side – Baroka – which has already tasted life at the top. The two sides know each other from their days in the National First Division (NFD) and would want to outdo each other early on in the season. The previous calender saw neither team winning matches as they played two draws while in the NFD. Life in the Premier Soccer League will be hard for both sides and this match should set the tone for them.
Ajax Cape Town vs Orlando Pirates (Cape Town Stadium)
After their flying start to the season following an impressive victory over Arrows, the Buccaneers suffered a setback when they were knocked out of the MTN8 by Bidvest Wits – a game coach Muhsin Ertugral should shoulder the blame for, given his team selection; surely he would have worked on that by now. Ajax got away with a point from its last match against Baroka, and Roger De Sá has since bolstered his side with two former Pirates midfielders: Lebohang Mokoena and Mark Mayambela.
Pick: Pirates win
Polokwane City vs Bidvest Wits (Peter Mokaba Stadium)
This is probably the worst time to face a red-hot Wits team, which is on a roll following victories over two Soweto giants – Chiefs and Pirates – but someone has to. City have the honour of welcoming The Students and will want to prove they can be taught a lesson. City lost their opening game away in Cape Town and are looking to bounce back immediately at the expense of Wits, who were involved in the MTN8 semifinal first leg last night against Cape Town City.
Pick: Wits win
Kaizer Chiefs vs Platinum Stars (FNB Stadium)
The two-week break would have given Amakhosi coach Steve Komphela time to review the two successive losses his team has already suffered. Chiefs are still searching for their first victory and achieving that in their first home game would go a long way towards restoring confidence. But it will not be easy against a Stars side that has always given them a tough time. Stars have three points in the bag. Both clubs were knocked out of the MTN8 and are looking to secure an immediate comeback.
Pick: Chiefs win
Maritzburg United vs Mamelodi Sundowns (Harry Gwala Stadium)
Sundowns begin their title defence, but have other issues to contend with. They should not be distracted by off-the-field factors after their request to postpone this match was denied. The Brazilians have enough in their arsenal to win any competition. Expect to see new recruits Sibusiso Vilakazi, Yannick Zakri and Thapelo Morena, who are all not registered in the Champions League. United, on the other hand, started well with an away victory and should fancy their chances against the defending champions.
SuperSport United vs Chippa United (Lucas Moripe Stadium)
Playing two Tshwane sides in back-to-back matches will stretch Chippa, who have a date with Sundowns this afternoon. More so, against a side that has lost two on the trot, as United have done. After losing to Platinum Stars and Sundowns, SuperSport coach Stuart Baxter reacted by getting his former captain at Chiefs, Tefu Mashamaite, to bolster his defence. Expect sparks when these two meet.
Pick: SuperSport win
Golden Arrows vs Cape Town City (Princess Magogo Stadium)
Newbies City started with two victories over Polokwane City and Chiefs. Eric Tinkler could not have asked for a better start and his players will want to prove these victories were not flukes by winning away in Durban. Arrows got a rude awakening in their opening fixture when they conceded three goals. Hopefully coach Clinton Larsen has worked on the team’s defensive blunders.
Pick: Arrows win
Free State Stars vs Bloemfontein Celtic (Goble Park)
Free State have the honour of hosting the first derby of the season. It should be a cracker of a game as these two sides loathe each other. Stars came out on top last season on two occasions, and Celtic would not want to see a repeat of that. Both sides started on a losing note and the sooner they start collecting points, the better.
Pick: Celtic win