Downs Want Ticket To Champs League Once More26/May/2017 17:31
Mamelodi Sundowns returned triumphantly on Thursday from the Democratic Republic of Congo following a classic display of football against AS Vita Club, who they thrashed 3-1 in a CAF Champions League clash.
But they had to knuckle down to prepare for another critical clash – this time to get second spot in the league and qualify for next year’s Champions League.
They take on a desperate Highlands Park, who are fighting for their lives in the Premier Soccer League. The Lions of the North must win, and then hope that other teams in the relegation dog fight slip up.
For the Brazilians, Cape Town City are waiting in the wings on third position, and hope the Tshwane Giants slip up so they can snatch second position and the Champions League slot- which would be a massive achievement for a team in its maiden league campaign.
So when the Brazilians take on Highlands at the Makhulong Stadium, it won’t be a dead rubber just because the league championship is done and dusted. It will be a critical six pointer.
Highlands have only played Sundowns twice, and failed to score in both games even though they stretched the champions into extra time to lose 1-0 in a Cup game.
But in their first league clash, they were hammered 5-0, but that score will count for nothing on Saturday. This game will be like a knockout.
Highlands have put in some gritty displays in recent weeks, but only have a victory over Chippa and a goalless draw against Orlando Pirates and Baroka, and a 1-1 draw against Bloemfontein Celtic to show for it. They have lost to Platinum Stars, Wits and Ajax.
What must be of concern to their technical team is the fact that they have only scored two goals in their last seven games. They must be asking themselves where the goals will come from, and hope that Zambian hit man Collins Mbesuma will find his scoring boots against a team he has played for. They will also hope that Surprise Moriri can still weave his magic to save them. And that another former Downs man Lindokuhle Mbatha can get among the goals.
Sundowns, on the other hand, will relish this clash as an away game. In their last six games, they have not won, drawing all their fixtures, at what last season was their slaughterhouse. Their two victories were both away, against Orlando Pirates and AS Vita Club.
And if they can replicate the form they showed in DRC, they should be able to dispose of Highlands.
Coach Pitso Mosimane will have one major concern – the long injury list. Whether he risks Khama Billiat, who was left out of the team that did battle in the DRC, through injury, remains to be seen. More battles are looming for the African champions and the coach might decide to keep the front line he used in the Congo – Yannick Zakri, Percy Tau, and behind them Anthony Laffor , Sibusiso Vilakazi, and Themba Zwane.
With Zakri hitting form, having scored in all three games he featured in recently, Mosimane might prefer him as he is suspended for the next Champions League clash, asking him to give this game full blast without holding anything back.
Vilakazi also seems to be slowly finding his feet, and scored in the Congo to boot. Captain Hlompho Kekana who was on the bench in DRC will most likely return, and Tiyane Mabunda could make a return from injury.
Tebogo Langerman, Kekana, Tau, Themba Zwane and Vilakazi have been included in new Bafana coach Stuart Baxter’s team to face Nigeria next month , so their fixture calendar will not be getting any easier, but for now, their focus will be on Saturday’sgame.
They want to do well and be in next year’s Champions League, so for Mosimane’s boys, it’s a must win against Highlands.