RIVALS PIRATES AND CHIEFS IN LEAGUE BLOCKBUSTER

RIVALS PIRATES AND CHIEFS IN LEAGUE BLOCKBUSTER

Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs will come to blows in arguably the biggest Soweto Derby showdown in recent memory, when they clash in an Absa Premiership match at FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Kick-off at 3:30pm CAT.

The two South African giants head into this weekend’s clash occupying first and third place on the league standings respectively, and while Chiefs hold the advantage, victory for Pirates will see them move within just three points of the league leaders.

Pirates racked up a sixth successive league win when a late own goal secured a 1-0 victory away to Black Leopards on February 16. The Buccaneers also boast an unbeaten home record this season, with seven wins and three draws giving them a haul of 24 points from a possible 30 so far in 2019/20 campaign.

Head coach Josef Zinnbauer has had an immediate impact in Orlando and will be hoping his team can keep their cool, and continue their climb up the log standings with victory over their fiercest rivals.

“Are my preparations different for the Soweto Derby? No, but for the players, this is special. We see this from the training sessions. They are very hot; they are hungry,” said Zinnbauer.

“I say, ‘Stop now, training is finished.’ But they say, ‘No, no, coach, we want to play more – give us a free-kick or give us a corner, or whatever…’

“They have a special feeling; they are focussed on the Derby, but we have to focus on the next game and for us, as coaches, it’s only the game that’s important.

“But I know it’s a special game for me too, but you don’t get more points than any other game, yeah? You have a chance for three points and not more.”

Chiefs suffered just a third league defeat of the season when they were beaten 2-1 at home by Maritzburg United on February 15. The Amakhosi have won just one of their last three league matches, though they have taken an impressive 23 points from 10 away matches this season.

While Pirates officials and players have ruled themselves out of the title race, Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp was not about to buy into their claims – ahead of what could prove to be a pivotal weekend in the race for league glory.

“I don’t fall into this trap, I have heard it, that Kaizer Chiefs want the title and Pirates don’t. I haven’t heard more nonsense than this in the last few days!” Middendorp said.

“No one said eight weeks ago we have a chance of the title, now all guys say ‘you have a chance for the title’ – no we have a chance for three points.’

“I am the last to say we don’t want the title, all the players want the title, I want the title if and when we have the chance, we take the chance,” he concluded.

When the teams met earlier this season, at the FNB Stadium in November 2019, Chiefs claimed a 3-2 home win thanks to an own goal from Ntsikelelo Nyauza, a goal from Leonardo Castro and a late penalty from Daniel Cardoso. The result broke a nine-game league winless streak for the Amakhosi in the rivalry.

Players to watch:

Orlando Pirates

Gabadinho Mhango: The Malawi international has scored an incredible 12 goals in his last 11 league games to take his goal tally up to 15 in 20 matches across all competitions this season. Mhango’s form has been directly responsible for Pirates’ rise up the league standings and if he can keep finding the back of the net there is no reason why the club can’t consider themselves genuine contenders for the league title.

Wayne Sandilands: The big question mark around both camps has been who will start in goal, and while there is a case to be made for both Daniel Akpeyi and Itumeleng Khune at Naturena, there is no doubt that Sandilands should be the man in goal for the Buccaneers this weekend. The experienced shot-stopper almost single-handedly won all three points for his club away to Black Leopards and will be hoping to replicate that form this weekend.

Kaizer Chiefs

Samir Nurkovic: With three goals in his last four games, the Chiefs striker is the Amakhosi’s key man in front of goal. The Serbian has struck up a superb relationship with Lebogang Manyama and the duo will be hoping to link up once more as Chiefs aim to extend their lead atop the league standings. Nurkovic’s work rate in unmatched and is sure to cause the Pirates defence problems, while he has proved that he can finish with both feet and with his head.

Eric Mathoho: It should come as no surprise that Mathoho’s return to form has had a direct impact on Chiefs’s success this season. The towering defender is key to the club’s cause, while he also poses a genuine threat at the other end of the pitch. Coming up against a skilful Pirates attack, pressure will be on Mathoho to keep things steady in what promises to be a fiery derby showdown.

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