The champions have been decided, but there is still much to play for in the final week of PSL top-flight action.
From CAF places, to Top 8 and top-flight safety, the penultimate round of matches is filled with interesting narratives, whichever side of the table you may look at.
The final permutations for all categories will become much clearer after today, but the picture is starting to take shape on who will still have something to fight for at the weekend. Either way, we need more goals in Gameweek 29 and Gameweek 30, or else this can become another sub-500 goal season.
480 – There have been 480 goals scored in the DStv Prem this season, with 16 games to play. Only two seasons have seen less than 500 goals in a full campaign (490 in 2017/18 and 499 in 2009/10)
AmaZulu are guaranteed their highest ever PSL finish, but would be disappointed not to qualify for continental competition given the season they’ve had. Usuthu can seal a CAF Champions League place if they win just one of their last two games, with the first of those coming against Swallows on today.
The CAF Confederation Cup spot, however, will be going down to the final day. Golden Arrows, Orlando Pirates and even Swallows FC are all in contention for third place in the league. Swallows could be knocked out of that race if they draw or lose today, leaving Pirates and Arrows (and possibly AmaZulu) to battle it out on Saturday.
Key CAF match
AmaZulu v Swallows
1 – Swallows need one win in their last two games in order to break the record for most points won by a newly promoted side in the 30-game PSL era.
There are still two Top 8 places still to play for. Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United and Pirates are confirmed in the Top 8 again, with Pirates appearing in a record 24 Top 8 finishes and SuperSport ending in the Top 8 for the 21st time in a row.
It’s the first time since 2011/12 for AmaZulu, a first since 2017/18 for Arrows, and a first for the new Swallows FC.
Mathematically, seven other teams can still make the Top 8, with a myriad of combinations for wins, losses and goal differential swings needed for each of them – Cape Town City, TS Galaxy, Baroka, Bloemfontein Celtic, Kaizer Chiefs, Maritzburg United and TTM.
Cape Town City remain in the driver’s seat here, and need one win to guarantee a top-half finish. The focus however, will be on Kaizer Chiefs, who recently released their coach Gavin Hunt. If we had predicted Kaizer Chiefs would be CAF semi-finalists, without a head coach but still not safe from relegation in the last week of the domestic season, readers would have laughed.
Not that we predicted this, but indeed here they are: Chiefs need one win to avoid the relegation playoffs (a draw may suffice based on their decent goal difference) but they’ll have their eyes on loftier targets.
Key Top 8 Match
Chiefs v Arrows
1 – Since the end of January, Chiefs have kept one clean sheet in the league – the fewest of all top-flight sides. That said, the Soweto giants have failed to score just once in that time, also the fewest of all sides.
The relegation and playoff race is just as intriguing as the race for the Top 8.
Mathematically, seven teams can still finish 15th, but Black Leopards would probably be the favorites for automatic relegation now. Of the 13 sides to have won 22 points or less at this stage of a 30-game season, only two finished higher than 15th – Maritzburg in 2015/16 and Dynamos in 2003/04.
Maritzburg needed to win both their last two games, while Dynamos won one and lost one, but still ended 14th. Leopards, who have won just one match in nine visits to Cape based sides (D3 L5), must find the winning formula that saw them overcome Ajax Cape Town in November 2012. Or more realistically, find the formula that saw them come back from a goal down to win at home to Chiefs last weekend.
Key relegation clash
TTM v Chippa
The key relegation clash pits TTM in 13th against Chippa in 15th. The last fixture between the sides ended 1-1, and a repeat of that result would leave TTM happier than Chippa. TTM need the win to break past the 30-point mark and avoid an awkward final day. Chippa need the win to stave off Leopards’ late surge out of the relegation zone.
52 – 1-1 is the most common scoreline in the #DSTVPrem this season, occurring 52 times, a record for 1-1 draws in a season (previously 43 in 2005/06).
It should come as no surprise then that there have been 86 drawn matches this season, the most since 2017/18 (87 draws), and four short of the 30-game record (89 draws in 2005/06).
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By Opta Jabu