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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Where do Absa Prem contenders stand?

As we hit the closing stages of the PSL season with so many teams still in title race, this promises to be one of the most interesting run-ins in Absa Premiership history.
With so many clubs in contention, it is well worth looking at each of their challenges in detail.

Cape Town City
The new Mother City brand has been sitting near the top for most of the season with most pundits expecting them to drop off. However, with only 5 games left, the bubble still hasn’t burst.
Their form certainly suggests that they are peaking at the right time. Eric Tinkler’s men haven’t lost in 10 league games, making them only unbeaten Absa Premiership side in 2017.

Their list of remaining games does look kinder on paper after back-to-back battles against fellow challengers Bidvest Wits and Kaizer Chiefs. Their only remaining fixture against top 5 opposition is their trip to SuperSport United on May 9th.
In order to win the title, they will have to do better against their remaining opponents than they did earlier in the season. Against the teams that they’ve got left, they only got 7 points from those 5 opponents earlier in the season, which would be too few to go on and claim a sensational maiden Absa Premiership title.

Mamelodi Sundowns
It’s as if the defending champions have been playing catch up the whole season after their CAF Champions League campaign left so many fixtures to make up. Now that we’re nearing the end of the season, the African champions have managed to get themselves into a postion where back-to-back titles is in their own hands.

While they have less points than they did at this stage last year (they have 47 points after 23 matches as opposed to last season’s haul of 52), winning their games in hand would be enough to take them to the PSL summit.
With 4 wins in a row, Sundowns are the team with the longest current winning run in the Absa Premiership. While they’ve built up some momentum for the final stretch, the congestion of their fixtures will pose a serious test of stamina.

Masandawana have 5 games between now and May 10th, including high profile games against Bidvest Wits on Monday and Orlando Pirates next weekend.
While Pitso Mosimane’s men have proven their credentials as champions time and time again, a repeat domestic title would arguably go down as their most impressive one yet considering the fixture list challenges they’ve had to overcome.
Bidvest Wits

Bidvest Wits have been tipped as favourites by many throughout the season, especially with everyone being aware of Sundowns’ fixture struggles. However, with 7 games left, the Clever Boys now have similar fixture congestion issues as Masandawana as they also have 5 games coming up in less than 2 weeks.
They’re currently sitting in third spot and will be looking to turn around a recent dip. They’ve just gone back-to-back league games without a win for the first time this year, so they’ll be keen to get back to winning ways to put pressure on the others.

While Bidvest Wits will be motivated to win their first ever Absa Premiership title as a team, there’s also a great individual milestone on offer for their coach. Gavin Hunt needs 1 more league title to tie Gordon Igesund and Ted Dumitru’s record of 4 Absa Premiership titles, and he’s been wanting to build a legacy at the club that will eventually get him to surpass those names.

Kaizer Chiefs
Just as it looked like Steve Komphela had built the type of consistency that could get Kaizer Chiefs challenging for the title again, the Amakhosi had their 12-game unbeaten run come to an end in a thrilling ‘6-pointer’ against table-topping Cape Town City and they lost valuable ground in the title race.
They won’t feel that their 4-point gap behind the league leaders is insurmountable though. If they can end consistently, they could well be contenders and possibly even set up a mouthwatering final day title-decider at home against fellow challengers Bidvest Wits.

While they’ve shown consistency in results since the turn of the year, Chiefs have also shown that they can consistently find the net. The Glamour Boys have only failed to score in only 2 games throughout the campaign (after going goalless in 8 of their matches last season).

If they do challenge at the end, one worry would be their goal difference. At plus 13, they have the worst goal difference of anyone the top 5. At this rate, they’d come up short if they finished even on points with any of the challengers.
SuperSport United
SuperSport United looked to be mounting a serious challenge earlier in the campaign after their 19-game unbeaten run in the season (a joint PSL record).

However, Matsatsantsa’s title hopes have taken a serious hit with 3 losses in their last 4 games.
Sitting 9 points behind Cape Town City with a game in hand, they’ll need to win most (if not all) of their remaining 6 games to be challenging on the final weekend.
There are a few trends that need to be turned around immediately for that to happen though. They’re the only team in the top half of the table to have only 1 win in their last 6 games
On the bright side, they do have home advantage in 4 of their final 6 games. However, they’ve failed to score in their last 3 home games.

If they are to keep this wonderful title race a 5-horse one, they will have to get a good result against Kaizer Chiefs this weekend in what promises to be one of the many fascinating top of the table clashes that will form a part of deciding who will challenge in one of the most interesting PSL title races in memory.

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