It was around this time last year that the pendulum of the 2019/20 PSL title race began to swing Mamelodi Sundowns’ way.
Ernst Middendorp’s Kaizer Chiefs had led the pack for most of the season and most importantly were 10 points ahead of Sundowns on Valentine’s Day 2020.
A week later, the lead had been reduced to just four points after Chiefs lost to Maritzburg United and Sundowns beat Chippa United and Bloemfontein Celtic, one of which had been a game in hand.
Sensing the opportunity, Sundowns lost just two of the remaining 10 games (W5 D3), while Chiefs won just three of their remaining 10 games. The rest, as we know it, is history.
Why bring it up again then? Well, because the two big teams are in action today, and a year later, it’s Sundowns that lead the table, with an opportunity to stretch their lead at the top to a closely similar five points.
Chiefs, on the other hand, are languishing in 9th position, 15 points behind Sundowns, which happens to be the biggest gap between the two sides at the half-way point of the season since Chiefs led Sundowns by 15 points in 2012/13. Chiefs won the title. Sundowns finished 10th.
22 – The biggest gap between Chiefs and Sundowns at the halfway stage of a season for the two clubs came in 2003/04 when Chiefs (36pts) led Sundowns (14pts) by 22. Again, Chiefs won the title and Sundowns finished 10th.
Chiefs v AmaZulu
Chiefs find themselves so far down the table thanks to a stuttering first-half to the season in which they won just 18-points in 15 games, their joint-lowest total at the halfway stage of a 30-game season (18 points also in 2007/08). Maybe the second half will be better?
The most Chiefs have managed in the second 15-games is 33 points in 2004/05, meaning they would have to equal that record in order to go past 50 points this season. 51 points would have been enough for 5th, 4th, 3rd and 5th in the last four PSL seasons.
It gives you an idea of where Chiefs could finish if they somehow manage to storm the next 15 games. While that is a tall order, Chiefs could not have asked for a better opponent to kick-start the second half of the campaign:
23 – Chiefs have won 23 league games against AmaZulu, more than they have against any other PSL team (25 if you count 2003/04 Zulu Royals as AmaZulu).
The most recent of those wins came only a month ago, a 1-0 win thanks to Samir Nurkovic and is the only defeat for Benni McCarthy since his first game in the AmaZulu dugout (he was not on the bench for the Arrows defeat).
Chiefs would be the first side to complete a league double over any team this season should they win today. But AmaZulu will be confident, knowing their coach still holds the upper hand against the opposition’s coach:
5 – McCarthy has won more games against Gavin Hunt than he has against any other PSL manager he has faced in his coaching career (5 games, all competitions).
Sundowns v Baroka
The other match of the day sees league leaders Sundowns host Baroka, a month after defeating them 2-0 in their first league encounter. A win for Sundowns would result in their first league-double over Baroka since 2017/18. Sundowns remain unbeaten in the league this season, going into the second half, and will set a new Sundowns record with a positive result today.
16 – Should they avoid defeat today, Sundowns will set a new club record for an unbeaten start to the season (previous best 15 in 1999/00 and 2018/19).
Their opponents are in 10th spot on the table and have won just once in the league in 2021, the joint-fewest of all clubs. However, they are still unbeaten on their travels this year. With nine days’ rest compared to Sundowns’ four, this could be a tricky fixture for the champions.
1 – Sundowns have lost just one home game in the league since November 2019 (W12 D5), with that solitary ‘home’ defeat also coming against Baroka in the bio-bubble.
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By Opta Jabu