Orlando Pirates v Kaizer Chiefs – Saturday 17 March – FNB Stadium (15:30)
The eagerly anticipated Soweto derby is upon us as both the PSL giants chase the ABSA Premiership title. Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates sit joint second place in the league standings at the time of writing this article, just three points behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns. Both teams know the importance of this match as it could likely influence the title race come the end of the season.
Orlando Pirates have suspended Coach Julio Leal. While embarking on a fact finding investigation into poor performances, the coach expressed that “he could not see his way forward” and offered the chairman “to do what is right for the club”. Augusto Palacios, the technical director of development, has assumed the role of head coach on an interim basis. Leal came under severe scrutiny after Pirates failed to advance past the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League. The Buccaneers went down 4-2 on aggregate to Angolan side Recreativo do Libolo earlier this month. The absence of Leal comes at a bad time as Pirates will have to play a tough trio of matches inside only just a week. They overcame a surprisingly strong amateur outfit in Ethekwini Coastals in Durban last week and would have travelled to Cape Town for a tricky fixture against Santos midweek and then face their Soweto rivals here. Pirates’ league form has improved as they have won their last four matches to move up the table after what was a bad start to the season which saw them at one stage sit in eighth place after eleven matches. They Buccaneers have arguably the best and biggest quality squad in the PSL and the players themselves have the ability to push for the title with or without Julio Leal with names such as Andile Jail, Tlou Segolela, Benni McCarthy, Isaac Chansa, Oupa Manyisa, Moeneeb Josephs, Siyabonga Sangweni, Daine Klaite, Luis Boa Morte and Sifiso Myeni, who could make his debut since arriving from Bidvest Wits a few weeks ago.
Kaizer Chiefs have been inconsistent throughout the season but still find themselves in a good position to win the title. Amakhosi are on an unbeaten run of seven matches and coming off an easy 3-0 win over Cape Town Spurs in the Nedbank Cup. They will come into this match with fresher legs than their opponents. This after their midweek clash with Ajax Cape Town was postponed as Ajax’s Nedbank Cup match on Saturday against Amazulu was rescheduled to play on Tuesday due to heavy rains that resulted in the pitch being deemed unplayable in the 74th minute, with the Urban Warriors leading 2-1. Chiefs have been excellent at the majestic Soccer City, known as FNB Stadium due to sponsorship reasons. Five of their eight home matches were played at FNB with Chiefs winning all five. Striker Lehlohonolo Majoro has found some decent form bringing his league tally up to six goals and netting the third in Chiefs’s Nedbank Cup win over Spurs.
The FNB Stadium clearly favours Chiefs as their 100% record there can only bring confidence into this always huge Soweto clash of which the first round meeting ended 2-1 to Amakhosi. Pirates have not beaten Chiefs in the league since 2009 and that record should be followed here with Chiefs being tipped for an important win.