The 25th PSL season kicks off this weekend with the traditional season opening tournament, the MTN8.
Thanks to the global pandemic, the unfamiliar sight of matches without fans will continue for a while longer, but the return of competitive football action somewhat soothes that pain.
On the field, an unfamiliar face enters the scene – Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) who qualify for this year’s competition after securing Wits’ top-flight status. The rest of the Top8 line-up has a familiar feel. Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United are names you’re almost always guaranteed to see. Cape Town City have been ever-present since they joined the top-flight in 2016, while Bloemfontein Celtic are making a second successive Top8 appearance, having missed out on three successive seasons before then. For Maritzburg, it’s the 3rd tournament in four years.
TTM v SuperSport United
A baptism of fire awaits the league newbies TTM, who host the defending champions SuperSport in the first quarter-final this afternoon. SuperSport lifted the MTN8 last season, beating Highlands Park 1-0 in a tightly contested final. Kaitano Tembo had scored as a player in SuperSport’s first ever Top8 match in the PSL era – the 2001 BP Top8 quarter-final. He came full circle last season, leading the team to a second Top8 trophy in 3 years. They’ll also be aiming to become the first side to reach four successive MTN8 finals.
20 – SuperSport will be appearing in their 20th Top8 tournament in the PSL era. This will be their 20th appearance in succession, the longest successive run of Top8 appearances by any side in the PSL era.
Orlando Pirates v Cape Town City
Tonight’s fixture pits Cape Town City against Orlando Pirates. City effectively denied Pirates the league title in 2018/19 with a 2-2 draw in the penultimate game of the season. That memory is still fresh in the minds of many fans, and has added some extra spice to the fixture in recent years. Both teams endured mixed seasons in 2019/20, mirrored by their mid season coaching changes. For Pirates, the results were immediate, as Josef Zinnbauer led the Buccaneers on a record equalling six wins in a row.
35 – Pirates won 35 points in the league between Zinnbauer’s first game in charge and the end of the season, more than any other side.
For Jan Olde Riekerink, the results were not so immediate, as the Dutchman failed to win any of his first four games in charge. Indeed, Zinnbauer won his first game before Riekerink, even though the Dutchman had been in charge of his club way before the German. However, 2020 went better for City:
60% – From 1 January 2020, Riekerink won 60% of his league games at Cape Town City, the best win ratio of all top-flight teams.
While most of their league encounters end in draws (5 of the 8 matches ended in a draw) this will be just the second Cup clash between the sides. Cape Town City won 1-0 in the 2018 Nedbank Cup quarter-finals, thanks to Ayanda Patosi’s goal.
Sunday 18 October
The league champions Sundowns and league runners up Chiefs will wait until Sunday for their season openers, with both teams starting a new life under new management. Or, under new management structures in the case of Sundowns. Gavin Hunt leads a Chiefs side with many players out for various reasons, while the Manqoba Mngqithi-Rulani Mokwena experiment will be subject to its first external examination. They could ease fans’ worries about life after Pitso with the one trophy that eluded him at Sundowns – the MTN8.
Kaizer Chiefs v Maritzburg United
Chiefs return to competitive action for the first time since the heartbreaking last day title loss. Amakhosi host Maritzburg on Sunday afternoon in the third quarter-final. Maritzburg are unbeaten in their last three games against Chiefs, winning two and drawing one. On a manager level, Eric Tinkler is unbeaten in his last three matches against Hunt, also winning twice and drawing one. As such, this one may be hard to call. Both teams struggled in the bio-bubble at the back end of last season, and they will be hoping to start the season on a better note.
7 – Tinkler has lost 7 matches (Won 4 Lost 3 in all competitions) against Hunt in his managerial career. Only against Pitso (Lost 8) has he suffered more defeats.
In knockout clashes, Chiefs have historically enjoyed the advantage, progressing in four of the 5 Cup meetings between the sides. One of these matches was an all-time classic:
8 – The highest scoring Top8 match in the PSL era was Chiefs v Maritzburg in the 2015 quarter-final with 8 goals, as Chiefs beat Maritzburg 5-3 in extra-time.
Mamelodi Sundowns v Bloemfontein Celtic
The Nedbank Cup finalists meet once again, this time in the fourth MTN8 quarter-final on Sunday evening. It’s a repeat of last season’s quarter-final clash, as both sides finished in the exact same positions in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 league seasons.
3 – This is only the third time that the two same sides are meeting at the quarter-final stage in successive league seasons.
Celtic and Wits also met in the 2013 and 2014 quarter-finals, while Pirates and Santos met in 2010 and 2011 quarter-finals.
While Sundowns have emerged victorious in seven of the ten Cup clashes between the sides in the PSL era, this fixture has seen its fair share of controversy over the last few years. The latest controversy means Tebogo Langerman is suspended for this fixture, following the administerial gaffe in the Nedbank Cup final that had to go to arbitration.
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By Opta Jabu