Pre-season action is well and truly underway with Kaizer Chiefs retaining the Maize Cup last weekend, while Mamelodi Sundowns continued their CAF Champions League run on Tuesday against Togo-Port away from home. The two South African giants will compete in the newly-launched Shell Helix Cup, something the fans should get used to, as it will continue to run for the next three years. With the Absa Premiership just a fortnight away, Chiefs and Sundowns will be looking to prepare accordingly and set things straight in pre-season, with much expected of the two giants ahead of the new season.
To win (90 mins)
Kaizer Chiefs 2/1
Mamelodi Sundowns 13/10
Newly-appointed head coach, Giovanni Solinas, will get a first look at what his charges are capable of when they do battle with league champions, Mamelodi Sundowns.
Of course, the Italian tactician was in attendance as he watched his side lift the 2018 Maize Cup, but things will be much different with his methods utilised against the opposition. Solinas is just waiting on his work permit, with the former Free State Stars boss eager to start his tenure at the Amakhosi helm.
“It’s a big opportunity as Kaizer Chiefs are a big club, not only in South Africa but also on the African continent,” Solinas told the club’s website.
“Coaching a club of this magnitude comes with a big responsibility. I will work hard day and night to make the Kaizer Chiefs family and the supporters happy,” he concluded.
Khama Billiat was given a chance to shine in his new colours last weekend, but the Zimbabwean failed to open his goalscoring account, leaving the door open for a fairy-tale start to get his first goal against his former employers in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup.
Another debut was given in the Maize Cup as Kabelo Mahlasela got his first run out in the yellow and black colours of Amakhosi, despite signing for the club way back in January. Mahlasela and Billiat played alongside Leonardo Castro and Siphelele Ntshangase in attack, which gave coach Solinas an indication that Chiefs’ star players can, in fact, play together and form a lethal combination.
Masandawana will be looking to give all their players a run out before the Absa Premiership starts, and with the star performers expected to be given a slight rest after their CAF Champions League exploits in midweek, the likes of Lucky Mohomi, Thokozani Sekotlong as well as the new boys from overseas, Jose Ali Meza and Tony Silva, will be a given a chance to shine.
Sundowns will also have Gaston Sirino back after the player missed out in the Champions League due to suspension. Pitso Mosimane is likely to ring the changes, but every trophy counts for the Brazilians, and they’ll want to win the first ever Shell Helix Ultra Cup and have extra bragging rights over Chiefs.
Sundowns’ last friendly game was during the season when they faced Spanish giants, Barcelona. Although there was a gulf in class in that match, Masandawana showed great fight and spirit to push Barca all the way, and in the end, profited from it as Sibusiso Vilakazi netted a consolation goal.
With the Chloorkop-based side coming up against Billiat for the first time since his departure, Masandawana will be hoping a former Kaizer Chiefs player can outshine him and regain his form ahead of the new season.
We all know what George Lebese is capable of, and if he rediscovers that form which earned him a move to Sundowns, the Glamour Boys could be in for a tough day at the FNB Stadium.
Kaizer Chiefs: 4-4-2
Khune; Moleko, Mathoho, Cardoso, Mirwa; Malongoane, Katsande, Ntshangase, Mahlasela; Billiat, Castro.
Mamelodi Sundowns: 4-2-3-1
Onyango; Ngcongca, Arendse, Nascimento, Langerman; Mohomi, Manyisa; Ngoma, Sirino, Lebese; Sekotlong.
Prediction: Mamelodi Sundowns (2/1)
Although Kaizer Chiefs usually tend to do well in their pre-season tournaments, I’m expecting them to fall short against the league’s champions. Sundowns come off the back of a Champions League match, and although they’ve done quite a bit of travelling, returning from Togo in the week, my money is on them at 2/1.
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