We are fast approaching the business end of the DStv Premiership season and it will be another crucial weekend of action at both ends of the table, as well as in the race for a top eight place.
Here is a quick guide to the full round of eight matches over the next few days.
MARITZBURG UNITED VS SWALLOWS FC
Maritzburg United will take on draw specialists Swallows FC as they continue their bid for DStv Premiership survival at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday.
Swallows’ hopes of qualifying for African club competition next season are fading fast unless they can put together a strong run of wins in the next few weeks in what has been a bitter-sweet campaign.
Had you offered them 39 points at this stage at the start of the season they would likely have taken it, but an astonishing 15 draws in 24 games (including 12 that finished 1-1) means it is also a sense of what might have been.
Had they managed to turn just five of those 15 stalemates into wins they would be top of the table. The record for the most number of draws in a 30-game PSL season is 17.
Maritzburg are just three points above the PSL Promotion/Relegation place, but have been improved of late and look to be on an upwards trajectory with just a single defeat in their last eight games (W4 D3).
This is traditionally a fixture where Swallows have held sway, with 12 wins to six for Maritzburg in the past 21 meetings. They also won the reverse fixture in December 2-0.
CHIPPA UNITED VS STELLENBOSCH FC
This could be a crucial clash in the relegation scrap with Stellenbosch having been sucked into a battle at the bottom in recent weeks after going seven games without a win (D4 L3).
Should they lose here then second-bottom Chippa United will move to within a point of them with four games remaining and leave coach Steve Barker’s side in real trouble.
It is hard to understand why they are where they are with the talent in their squad, but victory would likely end any thoughts of the drop, though they must still play Orlando Pirates, Swallows FC and high-flying Lamontville Golden Arrows before the end of the campaign.
Chippa claimed a 1-0 midweek win at Kaizer Chiefs that ended a run of 11 league games without a win (D5 L6) and sent them spiraling down the table.
They will play four of their last five games at home, which would ordinarily be a massive boost, but they have found victory in the Eastern Cape hard to come by with none in their previous nine games (D5 L4).
Stellenbosch won the corresponding fixture earlier in the campaign (2-0), while this is a last match before Chippa take on TTM in the final of the Nedbank Cup on May 8.
LAMONTVILLE GOLDEN ARROWS VS AMAZULU
If you had said at the start that these two would be in the top three going into the final five games of the season, many might have questioned your sanity.
But the Durban duo have been having an excellent campaign and fully deserve their spots at the top of the table, playing some enterprising football that has kept them just about in the title race – but at the very least fighting for CAF qualification positions.
AmaZulu are a single point behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, but have played two games more, while Lamontville Golden Arrows a further four points back.
The latter have been hampered by too many draws, 13 from their 25 games, including half of their home matches (six from 12) ending in stalemates.
AmaZulu now have the second-best best attack in the league with 36 goals scored after their 5-1 humiliation of Cape Town City (who have the best with 39) in midweek, while Golden Arrows are fourth on the list with 33, behind Sundowns (35).
That would suggest goals in this game, but it does also have a feel of a draw about it, just like the last meeting between these sides in the Nedbank Cup in February that ended 1-1, with Usuthu winning on penalties.
BLOEMFONTEIN CELTIC VS KAIZER CHIEFS
There is a real scrap developing for the last of the top eight places this season, with both these clubs among five sides trying to win one place.
It seems likely the top seven positions in the DStv Premiership are sewn up, with TS Galaxy currently in eighth on 29 points. Kaizer Chiefs are one back on 28 and Bloemfontein Celtic also in the mix on 26.
You never quite know what you will get from Chiefs this season, the last week summing up their campaign perfectly – a come-from-behind away win over Mamelodi Sundowns was followed by a home loss to relegation-threatened Chippa United in midweek.
And Bloemfontein is among the toughest places to go and get a win this season, with Celtic losing just one of their 12 home games (W5 D6), which was against Orlando Pirates (0-1) all the way back at the start of November.
But Chiefs have actually averaged more points on the road (1.46 per game) than at home this season (0.92), suggesting they find it easier to manage games on their travels. That is handy as four of their last six this season are away.
Having said that, Chiefs have not won any of their last three trips to Bloemfontein (D1 L2), while the corresponding fixture earlier in the campaign finished 1-1.
TS GALAXY VS CAPE TOWN CITY
Cape Town City coach Jan Olde Riekerink said his players should be embarrassed by their 5-1 thumping at the hands of AmaZulu in midweek and felt the remainder of their season would be determined by how they respond to that.
It was a shambolic performance in which they gave away three penalties (all warranted), and with top eight all but secured, perhaps a sign that the players have already taken their foot off the pedal and are looking forward to a post-season break.
The performance was surprising coming off the back of three straight wins and City could yet jump to fourth if they win here and other results go their way.
For Galaxy it has been the opposite, they were on a run of four straight defeats, the worst in the club’s brief history, before a midweek 1-0 win at Baroka FC signaled what they hope will be a turnaround in that push for a top eight place.
Galaxy’s problem has been scoring goals at home, only the bottom three have netted fewer than their 10 this season, while overall they have 24 in as many games – just the bottom four are worse off on that score.
City have both the best attack (39 goals scored) and the second worst defence (35 conceded), with only doomed Black Leopards letting in more goals (38).
City won the home game 3-2 against Galaxy earlier in the campaign, all of those goals coming in the first half, including a penalty for each side.
TTM VS BLACK LEOPARDS
A real relegation six-pointer between two of the bottom three and a game that Black Leopards simply have to win if they are to have any hope of survival this campaign.
They could find themselves nine points adrift at the foot of the table with five games remaining if they lose, which means this result could effectively relegate them, even if mathematically they would still have hope.
Conversely, a win could take them to within three points of the relegation play-off position with a game in hand on the team above them.
TTM’s form has been boosted by a run to the Nedbank Cup final, where they meet fellow strugglers Chippa United on May 8, and they have won two of their last three in the league as well.
It has largely been win or bust for them at home, with two victories and four defeats in their last six on their own patch.
Leopards have claimed a pair of credible draws in their last two games against Stellenbosch (0-0) and SuperSport United (1-1), but no victories in their last nine (D3 L6) is why they find themselves propping up the division.
The league game finished 1-1 earlier in the campaign, but TTM did claim a 2-0 away success in the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals.
SUPERSPORT UNITED VS BAROKA FC
SuperSport United’s season has fizzled out in recent weeks, leaving them looking secured for a top eight place but well off the pace when it comes to the CAF club competition qualification.
Baroka have probably done enough to avoid relegation, and are instead still trying to win a place in the top eight, meaning they have arguably the most to play for in this fixture.
Matsatsantsa will be alarmed by their drop-off, they have just two wins in their last 16 games in all competitions (D9 L5), while there are no wins at all in their last nine (D6 L3).
Baroka suffered a first defeat in six (W1 D4) last time out against Galaxy and have actually been better on the road (W3 D6 L3) this season than at home (W3 D4 L6).
SuperSport have a single defeat at home this campaign (W5 D6) but overall have had an unusually leaky defence.
Their 26 goals conceded is comfortably the worst of the sides in the top six. The rider to that is the fact that 17 of those 26 goals have been conceded on the road.
SuperSport lead the head-to-head between the teams 6-3, with two draws, which includes a 3-1 away success in the reverse fixture in December.
ORLANDO PIRATES VS MAMELODI SUNDOWNS
The headline fixture of the weekend is on Sunday with this meeting between two of the traditional ‘Big Three’, and Mamelodi Sundowns come into the game in unusually lackluster form.
Perhaps it is the exertions of the season catching up with them, but they have no wins in four games and have managed just a single goal scored in that time.
In fact, they have three wins in their last 10 games (D5 L2) in all competitions, which is far from the all-conquering side that beat all in front of them earlier in the campaign.
Pirates have not been in wonderful form either with four points taken from the last nine available in the league, though they will have been boosted by making the quarterfinals of the CAF Confederation Cup in midweek, even if they did lose 1-0 in Nigeria against Enyimba.
Sundowns thumped Pirates 4-1 in the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals two weeks ago, and also claimed a 1-0 win in the league in January.
The last six meetings have seen two Sundowns wins, one for Pirates and three draws, which all ended 0-0.
In the last 101 meetings in all competitions since 1985, Sundowns lead the head-to-head 40-31, with 30 draws. They have outscored their opponents 140-99.