The world is changing, but some things in South African football remain the same.
Seeing Mamelodi Sundowns at the top of the PSL league table is one of those familiar sights.
On the other hand, seeing Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM), a newly formed side, in the top division of South African football is one of the unfamiliar sights. Yet, it is a sight that could also soon change.
TTM are stuck in the relegation zone, 15th on the table with 16 points from 19 games, and in danger of dropping out at the first attempt at top-level football. Unless results start to change.
27 – In the 30-game PSL era, 27 sides have found themselves with 16 points or less after 19 games. Only six have finished above 15th place.
While this is a situation that no team would like to find themselves in, the situation is not yet critical. Four wins and two draws could be enough to ensure safety, but one wonders where those wins will come from.
This afternoon, TTM will look to focus on the opposition, and not on the situation they find themselves in.
Indeed, a focus on the opposition will actually give them some hope. They were the only team that managed to keep a clean sheet against Sundowns in the champions’ opening ten games of the season.
The two teams drew 0-0 the last time they met in the league, in October 2020, and TTM will be hoping they have retained that blueprint.
3 – Only three sides have managed to keep a clean sheet against Sundowns in the league this season (TTM, SuperSport United, and Bloem Celtic).
However, repeating the feat against Peter Shalulile and co will not be easy. Since January last year (before Covid), Sundowns have scored in every away match they have played in the league except for one (v SuperSport).
The last two away games have also seen injury-time winners, a warning that TTM will have to be at their best until the final whistle is blown.
Sundowns themselves have a different set of concerns. They could extend their club-record unbeaten run to 28 games, a run that has gone on since losing to Celtic in the MTN8 quarterfinals last year.
More importantly, they could stretch their lead at the top of the table to six points, creating some breathing room between themselves and emergent challengers; Golden Arrows & AmaZulu. Oddly, these are both teams that Manqoba Mngqithi has managed at some point in his career.
19 – Sundowns will be looking to equal a PSL record of going unbeaten in the opening 19 games of a league season today, a record that was set by Kaizer Chiefs in 2014/15.
The bookmakers make Downs heavy favourites to win this one, and it’s little wonder, given their form but also how dominant Sundowns have been against “new” sides.
10 – Sundowns are unbeaten in their last ten matches played against sides that were new to the top-flight (W7 D3 since March 2018).
Kaizer Chiefs v Stellenbosch
Chiefs host Stellenbosch in the later kickoff, looking to extend their recent run of good form.
The Soweto derby victory was immediately followed by a Caf Champions League win in their next game.
The Caf win against Wydad came thanks to a rare Bernard Parker goal which was his first since 20 April 2019 – 714 days since his last goal for Chiefs.
It’s the longest gap he’s had between two goals in his career, but he and his teammates won’t mind one bit if such goals mean the team continued to build some momentum.
5 – Chiefs are currently unbeaten in five games (W3 D2, all comps), their joint-longest run of matches without a loss this season.
By Opta Jabu