Johannesburg - With the Absa Premiership title race approaching boiling point, the off-field skirmishes are intensifying as team coaches play mind games.
Cape Town City’s Eric Tinkler this week tipped Bidvest Wits to walk away with the title, while his counterpart at the Students, Gavin Hunt, sang a different tune as he pointed in City’s direction.
Mamelodi Sundowns’ Pitso Mosimane also said his money would be on City and Kaizer Chiefs because they were not involved in continental competitions.
SuperSport United seem to have been rattled by the imminent departure of coach Stuart Baxter to Bafana Bafana. They suffered a shock loss to bottom-of-the-log Baroka FC last weekend, which dented their title ambitions.
The sooner they know where they stand with Baxter, the better it will be for the team.
Juggling continental competitions and domestic tournaments might be too much for United, who were away in Liberia this weekend for the CAF Confederations Cup.
Of all the contenders, Mosimane should be the most worried of the lot, having gone five games without a victory. Dropping 12 points has harmed Sundowns’ chances of successfully defending their league title – for now.
The Brazilians might have lost further ground in the title race, but, with 11 games to go, there will surely be more twists and turns before the final destination of the title is decided.
In fact, the race is now wide open, with Wits in a good position to walk away with the crown.
With two games in hand, the Students would be well aware that games in hand are not necessarily points in the bag, as Sundowns have discovered.
Wits are a point adrift log leaders City and if they win both matches, they will be in pole position to annex their maiden league title.
Although they would not admit it, being knocked out of the Nedbank Cup – they lost to Jomo Cosmos on Tuesday night – could be a blessing in disguise for the Students as it means playing fewer games and being able to focus on just two tournaments, the CAF Confederations Cup and the Absa Premiership.
Hard to predict
Wits will aim to topple City at the top when they host Golden Arrows on Tuesday. Hunt knows that he can no longer afford to drop points, particularly when playing at home.
But the game of the week will be the Tshwane derby on Thursday evening, when Sundowns welcome rivals SuperSport.
Matches between these two sides are hard to predict and it is even more difficult now as a lot is at stake.
Mosimane will hope to bounce back at the expense of SuperSport United. He knows that a win might just be what they need to boost their chances of defending their title.