Since the turn of the year, there has been a clear difference in the fortunes of the two Soweto teams, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. The latter has seen better days at the office, while their rivals have been somewhat indifferent in 2015. Pirates had convincing wins against AmaZulu,Platinum Stars and Polokwane City while Chiefs drew with Bloemfontein Celtic in their first match of the year, followed by a loss to SuperSport United. Athough the two teams progressed safely into the next round of the Nedbank Cup, thrashing Tornado FC and Edu Sport by four goals to nil each, I think the form book will agree with me that The Sea Robbers have the upper hand going into this weekend’s Soweto Derby.
The Buccaneers have not beaten Amakhosi in an official game this season, having come short in both the MTN8 final, and the first round league derby. At the time their season was very rocky, with results not coming their way, and they had some internal matters to deal with. It now seems the Christmas and AFCON break did them a world of good, having come back looking much sharper.
Eric Tinkler looks to have found the winning formula, and the players seem to be warming up to him. Incidentally, Tinkler’s first game in charge happened to be the derby after the departure of then coach Vladimir Vermezovic, so it was a bit of a baptism of fire. Also, at the time, the Glamour Boys were red hot, and there was never even a debate on who was going to win.
The question was rather with what margin the Naturena lads were going to win. Now thing have changed and Stuart Baxter’s side are not the form team of the moment. The fact that Chiefs have yet to win a league game this year puts the spanner in the works in this fixture, although both teams have midweek fixturew still to get through. The worst thing that can happen to Baxter’s boys is to go into the derby on the back of a loss, meaning they have to get it right against Ajax Cape Town today (Wednesday).
If they do not, they will be under massive pressure from the stands on Saturday – something they do not need. Even if they win against the Cape side, I get the feeling that Baxter has never had to win a derby like this one. Firstly to keep the fans’ faith in him alive and secondly, because he can’t afford to drop any more points with Sundowns and Wits looking to pounce on any slip ups.
This is a very crucial week for Chiefs. On the other hand, it could be just what they need to get their campaign back on the rails. It could be that the players need the motivation of a big game to come to the party, and one thing I know is that Kaizer Chiefs has always had big match temperament. The underdog tag could also work for them, with the pressure of an expected win off their shoulders and onto those of their enemy.
For Tinkler the weight is off his shoulders this time around. He doesn’t really have to win this derby. He has done well in recent times, which created some breathing room for him coming into the fixture.
He obviously wants to win it, and the supporters will not want Chiefs to do the double over them. It helps to go into this fixture with your team playing well, and this will go a long way in boosting their confidence from the onset. If Tinkler gets a win here, great.
But I don’t think failing to win will be a train smash, and he should not be faulted for thinking he will win. This traditional fixture has always been tightly contested, and we might also see a draw come the weekend. Another added positive for Pirates is that their top scorer Lehlohonolo Majoro is back from suspension after having been red-carded against Platinum Stars.
If there’s a player who wants to score against Chiefs in this life, it’s Majoro. Since crossing the great divide last season, the ‘Major’ is yet to find the net against his former team, and he would love nothing better that to hurt them where it matters most. It’s almost a given that he will be fielded for the match, and with the Chiefs defence looking shaky lately, I wouldn’t rule a Majoro goal out.
Not only are they not solid at the back, but they also struggle to score goals. This was fine when guys like Mandla Masango and ‘Yeye’ were banging in the goals. That isn’t happening anymore so they need strikers to do it themselves.
Baxter has been trying new combinations since Kingston Nkatha left. With Matthew Rusike, Siphelele Mthembu, and David Zulu all getting a try. It remains to be seen whether he will turn to Katlego Mphela to partner Bernard Parker sometime soon. Reneilwe Letsholonyane will most likely be back after being granted bereavement leave, so he will bring some stability in the midfield, but I doubt it will be enough.
I have a feeling Pirates will just be a shade better than Chiefs in this one based on how things are at the moment. I’m putting my money on the Buccaneers this Saturday, but before that, they have Free State Stars to worry about.