Sundowns, Chiefs set for heavyweight bout

Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs will have a heavyweight DStv Premiership bout when they meet at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Sunday, 12 September. Kick-off is at 5pm.

It is surely too early to label this clash at a ‘title decider’ but with Sundowns chasing a fifth successive championship and Chiefs looking a resurgent force under Stuart Baxter, it is fair to say that both clubs harbour major ambitions for this Premiership campaign and taking points off the other would go a long way toward achieving those goals.

Sundowns come into the clash on the back of a 1-1 draw away to Golden Arrows in an MTN8 semifinal, first-leg clash played on 28 August, just before the international break.

In league terms, the Brazilians were held 0-0 away to Chippa United at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on 24 August, a result which followed their opening-day 1-0 home win over AmaZulu four days prior.

Chiefs, meanwhile, racked up their first win of the Premiership season when they defeated Baroka FC 2-1 at FNB Stadium on 25 August, with goals from Khama Billiat and Daniel Cardoso, as well as a ‘Man of the Match’ showing from former ‘Downs favourite Keagan Dolly.

The Amakhosi’s opening league clash saw them held 0-0 by TS Galaxy at the Mbombela Stadium.

The clubs will be closely assessing their squads heading into the match, having both seen many players out on international duty during the recent batch of 2022 African World Cup Qualifiers, but there is no doubt that they will field their strongest possible XIs and fans watching at home can expect a tension-filled showdown.

DUELS TO WATCH:

Peter Shalulile v Daniel Cardoso

Fresh from helping Namibia pick up four points in their first two WCQ group matches, Peter Shalulile will look to cause major problems for the Chiefs defence on Sunday. Amakhosi centre-back Daniel Cardoso will need to be at his sharpest to quell the threat of the elusive marksman.

Mothobi Mvala v Cole Alexander

This will be a bruising battle between two committed and resilient central midfielders, with control of the ‘engine room’ on the line. Sundowns’ Mvala was exceptional for Bafana Bafana in the international break, while Alexander, who has already made an impressive impact at Chiefs, should be fresh and rested for the battle.

Thapelo Morena v Khama Billiat

This pair will be going head-to-head for the second time in nine days, having faced each other in the Zimbabwe v South Africa WCQ match in Harare which ended in a goalless stalemate last Friday. (3 September). Billiat has the skill and craft to hurt any defence, but Morena’s pace and recovery abilities could make life very frustrating for the Chiefs attacker.

WHAT THE TEAMS ARE SAYING:

Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena: “[Thabiso] Kutumela will still improve, he showed some glimpses of what type of player he is. He’s brave, direct, versatile and extremely multifunctional. He is a player that loves the half space, he loves positioning himself in between the lines and that’s his natural habitat. We have to be a little bit patient with him, give him also a chance to adapt and settle but Kutumela is a top football player.”

Kaizer Chiefs attacking midfielder Keagan Dolly: “I’m taking it each step at a time. I’m not in a hurry to be at the top. It’s a process for me and that goes for the team as well. We are focused on what we set out to achieve throughout the season. It’s only the second game. There are a lot of positives we can take from this game and also a lot we need to work on. With each game we will just get better.”

DID YOU KNOW:

– Sundowns and Chiefs have met once already this season, playing to a 2-2 draw in an MTN8 quarterfinal last month. Peter Shalulile and Themba Zwane netted for the Brazilians, while Bernard Parker and Khama Billiat were on target for the Amakhosi. ‘Downs won the post-match penalty shootout 2-1.

– Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has led the Amakhosi to three wins in eight competitive meetings against Sundowns, dating back to his first tenure with the Soweto club beginning in 2012 and including the above-mentioned match.

– The only league defeat Sundowns co-coaches Rhulani Mokwena, Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela have suffered in their tenure came at the hands of Chiefs: a 2-1 reverse at home in April of this year was the lone loss the Brazilians suffered in the 2020/21 DStv Premiership.

– The past five league meetings of Chiefs and Sundowns have all been won by the away team (three for the Brazilians, two for the Amakhosi).

HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS:

In head-to-head stats, Sundowns and Chiefs have met in 72 league matches since 1985. The Amakhosi have claimed 29 wins compared to 23 for the Brazilians, while 20 matches have been drawn.

The Tshwane side have won 15 of their 36 home matches in the rivalry, suffering 12 defeats in the process.

The teams’ league meetings last season both produced away victories: Sundowns won 3-0 at FNB Stadium in October 2020, while the return game at Loftus Versfeld in April 2021 saw Chiefs triumph 2-1 – it was the Brazilians’ only league defeat of the previous campaign.

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