It’s an immense fixture for both teams as they aim to start the new year with a victory.
Mamelodi Sundowns are top of the table while Orlando Pirates are in 5th position. Both teams are unbeaten since the start of 2020/21 season setting this up for a mouthwatering clash.
Both teams have new signings who have been effective in recent games. The Bucs’ new left winger Deon Hotto scored an equaliser in the MTN 8 final and has assisted in a couple of goals they’ve scored in league games. He is a menace to defenders and that’s why I would start him on Saturday if I was coach Josef Zinnbauer. Pirates’ new defender Thulani Hlatshwayo did not start the season well with a number of errors but has found his feet recently and should start.
Sundowns’ new signings have added to the depth of their squad. The challenge that their co-coaches have faced is in picking a consistent starting lineup. They have to act quickly on that before it affects their performances badly. Why not stick to the last season’s main line up, then introduce new signings gradually? That can build positive competition within the team. Almost every player that gets a chance at Sundowns does well.
Downs’ new striker Peter Shalulile has scored four goals in the league already. He looks hungry for more and Pirates needs a plan to deal with him. Masandawana’s new men Haashim Domingo and Lesedi Kapinga have forged a magnificent combination that is very dangerous, while the new center back Brian Onyango has been doing well and developed so much confidence.
Who are the players to look out for?
Buccaneers’ Thembinkosi Lorch has been in good form lately. He scored the winning goal in the MTN 8 final and a goal in the CAF Confederations Cup. He’s a playmaker for Orlando Pirates, usually playing just behind the strikers.
The Brazilians’ Themba Zwane is probably the league’s best player so far in this season. He is the joint leading goal scorer in the league alongside Bradley Grobler with seven goals. Mshishi is a power plant for Sundowns. He was rested in last two games and his absence was significantly visible as Sundowns had difficulties in building attack movements. The Footballer of the season of last campaign has improved even more and looks better each game. Who will stop Mshishi? Pirates defense better be prepared at some point to use zonal marking as he can play in narrow spaces.
Sundowns have welcomed back midfielder Siphelele Mkhulise from injury but Keletso Makgalwa is still out injured. Pirates’ Bongani Sam returned from injury and awaits his first appearance this season.
I put my money on Mamelodi Sundowns to win this one because of the aggression they’ve shown in previous games. Yes, Orlando Pirates have the quality but Sundowns’ will be too much for them.
The match will be played on Saturday at Loftus stadium, with Kick Off at 15:30.
Sinethemba Sithole’s prediction: Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 Orlando Pirates