PSL MIDWEEK: Why home form matters

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In the only two Absa Premiership games on Wednesday evening, Bidvest Wits will host Highlands Park in Milpark while Mamelodi Sundowns will welcome Bloemfontein Celtic at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
Milestone match for Wits at home
Bidvest Wits will be playing their 350th home game in the PSL era when they host Highlands at Bidvest stadium tonight, kickoff at 19:00.
The Clever Boys are just the fifth PSL side to reach the milestone after the quartet of ever-present PSL sides – Chiefs, Pirates, Sundowns and SuperSport. A week ago, they joined the 700 club – sides that have played 700 League games since the PSL was established 1996 – also joining the same four long time members.
 
Plagued by pitch and safety concerns, Gavin Hunt’s men have been forced to play their “home” matches in three stadiums already this season – Bidvest Stadium, Moses Mabhida and Dobsonville Stadium, which may be a contributor to their lukewarm home form, at least defensively. But as it turns out, they will actually get to play the milestone game at their chosen home ground – Bidvest stadium.
The Bidvest Stadium in Milpark.
 
1 – Wits have kept just one clean sheet at home this season, the fewest of all PSL sides, and that solitary clean sheet came against 10-men Cape Town City.
 
That doesn’t make for good defensive reading, especially for a side who have kept the joint highest number of clean sheets away from home (7). The Students can be optimistic for a positive result tonight, bearing in mind that the side visiting them aren’t the best of travellers.
Highlands have won just once away from home this season and Cape Town City (0) are the only side with less wins. Like Wits, they also have contrasting home/away fortunes:
 
15 – No PSL side has a bigger difference between points won at home (22) and points won away from home (7) than Highlands Park (15 point difference).
 
Highlands Park: Lions at home, kittens away from home
At home, Highlands roar like lions, hunting in the Top 4 with the likes of Pirates, Chiefs, Sundowns. They even have as many points at home as ‘Amakhosi’. Away from home, they meow like kittens, scraping in the bottom 4 with Polokwane City, Cape Town City and Black Leopards.
The Lions of the North.
 
With a draw/win at Wits, Highlands would reach the 30 point mark, securing their status as a top flight team next year. This would be the earliest that they’ve done this, still with a quarter of the season to go. This would give them a chance to focus on a successive Top 8 finish in the final months of the season.
 
29.9 – The average number of points for teams that have finished 14th in the 30-game PSL era, avoiding relegation/playoffs.
 
0 – Highlands have never kept a clean sheet against Wits, conceding every time they’ve met. Arrows are the only other current top-flight side who have a 100% record of always scoring against Highlands.
 
1 – Highlands Park have won just one of their last twelve games at home played on Wednesday nights (D7 L4).
Sundowns vs Bloemfontein Celtic.
Sundowns imperious at home
In contrast to fellow title hopefuls Wits, Sundowns are imperious at home. The Brazilians have already won more matches at home this season (7) than they did throughout all of last season (6) and are one win away from matching their total from three of the last five seasons (8).
Underlying that home form, the defending champions have the best defence at home, conceding just 5 goals, fewer than any other PSL side.
The Absa Premiership defending champions, Sundowns.
 
Only once before under Pitso Mosimane have ‘Masandawana’ acquired more points at this stage of an AbsaPrem season, than the 38 points they have now (and that was in 2015/16).
A win tonight will see them surpass their total points at home last season, and equal their home total from 2017/18, with 4 home games to play.
They’ll also top the home points table if they win. Besides playing at home, there are two more things that Sundowns enjoy: playing in February  and also against Celtic.
 
58.1% – In the PSL era, Sundowns have won a higher proportion of their matches in February, compared to all other months of the year (minimum 4 games).
 
24 – Sundowns have won 24 games against Celtic in the PSL era. There’s no opponent they’ve beaten on more occasions (Wits and Supersport also 24).
 
Celtic on a Wednesday night.
Celtic themselves come into the clash on a 2-match losing run away from home. Since September 2012, they have lost 3 successive away games only once (Jan 2018), but are in danger of matching that record.
Besides playing Sundowns, there are two other things Phunya Sele Sele don’t enjoy: playing on a Wednesday night and in February.
 2 – Celtic have won just 2 of the last 25 matches they’ve played on a Wednesday night.
 
29% – ‘Siwelel’ have a 29% win rate in February (19/66), their 2nd worst month in the calendar year (27% in December).
 
When you consider Sundowns’ home form and record against Celtic, and then Celtic’s Wednesday record and February record, only one result looks likely. But there is hope:
 
10 – Since Pitso took charge, Celtic have scored more goals at Sundowns than any other side in the League.
By Opta Jabu

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