The innovative and interactive Carling Black Label Cup is back to kick off the PSL season. The annual spectacular sees Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates do battle at the FNB Stadium, with the players to take the field voted in by the fans. Pirates have had the better of their rivals since the inception of the tournament four years ago, winning on three occasions while Chiefs have just one cup to their name. However, all Pirates’ triumphs have been won via penalty shootouts. Chiefs’ win was in 2013, when Lehlohonolo Majoro grabbed a first-half winner. One certainty is that this will not be treated as a pre-season friendly. Whenever these two Soweto giants meet there is always a lot at stake for everyone involved or connected to the respective clubs.
Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela, who enjoyed a brief stay at Naturena as a player, would love nothing more than to give his new employers their second Black Label Cup, after the high-profile departure of Stuart Baxter last month. He will need to do it without the title-winning trio of Tefu Mashamaite, Mandla Masango and Itumeleng Khune, although the latter two are reportedly locked in discussions with the club. Khompela has promised to bring an attractive style to the defending PSL champions’ brand of football, so hopefully there will be goals in what has traditionally been a low-scoring affair. AmaKhosi’s starting line-up looks to be settling with no changes to the eleven that was in two weeks ago, but they do have a number of defensive issues. The most notable absentee for the PSL champions is star central defender, Erick Mathoho, who misses out on the Soweto derby due to injury. The towering centre back underwent surgery towards the end of last season and is still recovering. With Morgan Gould and Daniel Cardoso still recovering from their injuries, new recruit Siyanda Xulu, is the only recognised centre back in the starting eleven selected by fans. It looks as though Siboniso Gaxa will have to partner him in the heart of defence with Kgotso Moleko at right back while Keegan Ritchie will likely have to replace Tsepo Masilela at left back who is facing a race against time to recover from an injury. Former Chiefs coach Baxter would not have agreed with his supporters’ choice in midfield. While Baxter preferred Willard Katsande, the supporters have gone for George Maluleka instead of the Zimbabwean in the middle of the park. Chiefs’ midfield looks a bit thin without Katsande, who always adds bite, and it remains to be seen how Maluleka and Reneilwe Letsholonyane complement each other. Another eye opener is the fact that the supporters prefer David Zulu, who was hardly used by Baxter last season, as Bernard Parker’s striking partner ahead of Siphelele Mthembu and new signings Camaldine Abraw and Bongani Ndulula. AmaKhosi have played just one pre-season match participating in the King’s Super Cup in Swaziland. They lost 4-2 on penalties to eventual winners Mbabane Swallows after drawing goalless in 90 minutes.
Orlando Pirates are the more settled of the two sides as they have been competing in the CAF Confederations Cup while the rest of the PSL have been on break. Coach Eric Tinkler will hope to improve on his sides performances from last season and a Soweto Derby victory will be the perfect platform for them to make a statement of intent for the forthcoming league season. It seems the Pirates supporters all know their best team as they have gone with what Tinkler would have preferred in a 4-4-2 formation. The supporters have always called for the partnership of Lehlohonolo Majoro and Kermit Erasmus upfront and their voices have been heard. The two will be leading the front-line on Saturday. The Bucs rearguard is straightforward with Happy Jele reverting to his usual right back position to make way for Siyabonga Sangweni to partner Rooi Mahamutsa in central defence. But Mahamutsa could be out after injuring himself in training last week and was unable to feature in their CAF match against Sfaxien on Sunday. It remains to be seen if he will recover in time for this clash. Thabo Matlaba could also be missing as he suffered a hamstring strain in 70th minute of Pirates’ 1-0 victory over Sfaxien. Matlaba is currently in the Buccaneers starting line-up, having secured 38729 votes, but his injury could see Patrick Phungwayo bumped into the starting line-up. The former Bidvest Wits defender replaced Matlaba on Sunday evening and put in a solid showing during his 20-minute cameo, as Tinkler’s side moved up to second in Group B. Thabo Rakhale, who scored a superb goal in the win, is a fan favourite and will play alongside Tinkler’s favourite midfielders Oupa Manyia, Issa Sarr and Sifiso Myeni. The Buccaneers were looking for a return to winning ways in Africa after losing 2-0 at home to Zamalek, and gave a superb performance that will bring them into FNB Stadium full of confidence. Pirates remain second in Group B with six points from three matches – three points behind Egyptian giants Zamalek, who defeated AC Leopards 2-0 in Cairo earlier on Sunday. Leopards and Sfaxien have a point apiece.
Line-ups as voted by fans on 28/07, likely injury replacements in brackets:
Kaizer Chiefs: 4-4-2
Khuzwayo; Moleko, Gaxa, Xulu, Masilela (Ritchie); Maluleka, Letsholonyane, Tshabalala, Lebese; Parker, Zulu
Orlando Pirates: 4-4-2
Mhlongo; Jele, Mahamutsa (Tshepo Gumede), Sangweni, Matlaba (Phungwayo); Myeni, Sarr, Manyisa, Rakhale; Majoro, Erasmus
Pirates have a semblance of continuity in their squad, unlike Chiefs, and a history of coming out tops in this tie. Chiefs’ make shift backline could be exposed by the lethal duo of Erasmus and Majoro. It’s also high time Pirates get a victory over their foes, with Chiefs managing to go unbeaten against Pirates in the last eight meetings where they have picked up three wins.