Sundowns top the PSL standings with 58 points, six clear of second-placed Wits. Only a very bad wobble in the remaining five games of the campaign can stop the Pretoria club from taking the championship. And Wits, no doubt, are hoping that Ajax can surprise the PSL log-leaders on Wednesday.
But, as De Sa suggests, it’s in attack where Sundowns are just so difficult to contain. Their front three of Colombian Leonardo Castro, Zimbabwean Khama Billiat and South African Keagan Dolly, much like Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have been unstoppable this season.
“We had a video session to demonstrate to the players how they attack with pace and in a direct manner,” said De Sa. “They have that magnificent three up front, and two of them are Ajax products, of course (Dolly and Billiat are both former Ajax stars). Sundowns are a team that love to play football, they aren’t a kicking team… and they are good on the ball.
“But, while we know what to expect, we don’t want to worry too much about the opposition. We have to focus on our own game and one of the most important things is to keep possession of the ball. We cannot give it away too often. We also have to make sure that we take the game to them and play the match at our own tempo, not at a pace to suit their passing style.”
The PSL title has become even more crucial for Sundowns after the big-spending Pretoria club crashed out of the Caf Champions League and the Nedbank Cup over the last week. And, because of that, De Sa is particularly wary of Wednesday’s opponents.
“That is the fear… they are a top team and have lost in two competitions recently, I’m sure we can expect a backlash. They certainly have the quality to get it right. With the VIP box they have on the bench, they remain a team to be reckoned with… but this is it for them… the PSL title will now become very important for them, and we are at the other end of their ambition. We’ll have to be ready, we’ll have to be at our best.”
The only concern for De Sa is defender Abbubaker Mobara, who has a slight injury. He was given off from training yesterday and will be assessed today before a final decision is made on his availability.
Finishing in the top eight is Ajax’s focus and, while they are hovering in ninth spot, De Sa is fully aware of the monumental task ahead. Their remaining games are against Sundowns on Wednesday, Bloemfontein Celtic (away) on Sunday, and then Jomo Cosmos (home), Maritzburg United (away) and title-chasing Wits (home) on the final day of the season.
“We may be safe from relegation, but the top eight makes things interesting in the PSL,” he said. “There are teams fighting for the title, teams battling relegation and others, like us, aiming for a top-eight position - everybody wants to do well.
“For us, it’s a difficult final few games, in that we are playing teams either going for the championship or fighting relegation, there are no easy games. But it’s always great playing against a team like Sundowns, where there is always intensity and purpose.
“We are already planning for next season, which means players are performing for contracts, for a place in next season’s squad. We’ve had a good last few games, two draws and a win, so it’s starting to turn around.
“After finishing fifth in the PSL and making the Nedbank Cup final last season, and then winning the MTN8 this season, it fell away a bit. But, to be honest, I think it has taken the squad a while to get over the death of Cecil Lolo. His passing left a cloud over the squad, which, I believe, is only now starting to clear. The acceptance is finally settling in - and it’s time (to) move forward.”
This week’s PSL fixtures
Tuesday: Free State Stars v Maritzburg United; SuperSport United v Wits
Wednesday: Cosmos v Celtic; Aces v Arrows; Chippa United v Platinum Stars; Ajax v Sundowns (Athlone Stadium, 5.30pm); AmaTuks v Chiefs; Pirates v Polokwane City
Original source: Ajax must keep lid on Sundowns’ deadly CBD