Downs v Chiefs – Loftus set for epic clash

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Mamelodi Sundowns’ match with Kaizer Chiefs in the Absa Premiership could be a defining moment for these two giants.

The Brazilians are struggling as they play catch up with the rest of the teams in the elite league.

Fresh from winning the CAF Champions League courtesy of victory over five-time African champions Zamalek in the final, any match the Brazilians have played thereafter has been something akin to a step down.

It is for that reason that Sundowns have struggled to get firing on the domestic front.

Amakhosi, on the other hand, have fared better in the league. They have gotten over their slow start to find themselves sitting pretty in third place.

Their turnaround is built on a solid and miserly defensive unit that has seen Chiefs keep six successive clean sheets.

How do the two teams match up for Saturday's epic clash?

Contrasting forms and fortunes

These clubs wouldn’t mind to be where the other is, but for different reasons. Amakhosi, the country’s cup kings, have been put under immense pressure by Sundowns after they became African champions.

The Brazilians join Chiefs’ rivals Orlando Pirates in the elite club of South African sides with the honour of having a star on top of their crest. Sundowns could wear that new-look badge for the first time on Saturday, which would further rub the success in Chiefs’ face.

Chiefs have appeared to look down on playing on the continent, seemingly preferring domestic success which is less gruelling and more financially rewarding. When they have looked to take continental football seriously, they have struggled to make it past the qualifying round barrier. Chiefs are yet to make the group stage of Africa's premier club competition.

After their barren run last season and Sundowns’ continental success, Chiefs must finish this season with something - preferably, for those associated with them, the league. The Brazilians wouldn’t mind being third in the league at this stage in their title defence.

They currently sit second from bottom, 11 points behind Chiefs, who have played five more games. Sundowns have not found their rhythm in the league, with just a win, a draw and a loss to Cape Town City in their opening three matches.

The Brazilians lost to the Capetonians because they were still in celebratory mood following their Champions League success.

But they won’t struggle to pick themselves up against Chiefs, in a match likely to be played in front of a packed stadium.

Former champions v current champions

This fixture last season, at the same venue in April, condemned Amakhosi to a barren campaign when Sundowns thumped them 3-1.

The victory pushed the Brazilians closer to lifting the league title for a record seventh time in the PSL,and deposing Chiefs in the process.

The trophy has gone back-and-forth between these two clubs in the last four seasons. If the trend is to continue, it should be heading to Naturena. But this campaign isn’t likely to be a two-horse race, Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United are setting the pace and will challenge these two giants.

Chiefs desperately need to win this match to do away with what must be worrying for the club in general, a failure to do well in high-profile matches. Those failures, stretching back to last season, have led to them being accused of lacking big match temperament (BMT). Sundowns have that in abundance, as evidenced by their Champions League win.

But now they must focus on being more consistent in the domestic front.

The Star

Original source: Downs v Chiefs - Loftus set for epic clash

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