Pirates v Sundowns: Three key battles


Best attack v Shaky defence

As far as comparisons go, this will be like Mike Tyson in his prime coming up against a kid who can barely lace up his gloves. It could end disastrously for Pirates much like the other sides who have been knocked out by Sundowns.

Or, it could be motivation to stun an attack that has scored 35 goals in the PSL, and from a club that has gone 18 matches unbeaten, while the Sea Robbers celebrate going three games without a defeat.

Eric Tinkler believes Pirates’ latest wins, against the University of Pretoria and Ajax Cape Town, have been a turning point. Sundowns will have a lot to say about that, when they come up against a defence that will be changed once again with interim captain and full back Thabo Matlaba suspended.

Goalkeepers battle within their own clubs

The battle for a place in the Sundowns starting XI is so intense, especially in the goalkeeping department, it would make even atheists go in search of the miraculous. And unluckily for Wayne Sandilands, he is fighting for a place in the squad with the in-form Dennis Onyango.

“It’s about Sundowns at the end of the day,” Sandilands said. “I am an employee of an organisation. I have to be ready and pull my weight whenever I am called upon because at the end of the day, it is about the collective and not an individual.

“That’s where I draw my inspiration and where my focus is at. My faith in the Lord also keeps me going. What He has taught me is this is about the collective. It is about being humble and when called upon, and try to make sure that the team wins.”

The team won when he was called upon on Sunday, even though he conceded 80 seconds into the match. If Onyango is fit, the Ugandan will start ahead of Sandilands but if not, coach Pitso Mosimane will not risk him with their CAF Champions League campaign starting on Saturday.

It’s a bit different at Pirates where the No 1 spot is still up for grabs, even though Brighton Mhlongo has been the preferred first-choice shot-stopper. It’s a competition that will push whichever man will be between the posts.

Mental battle

To an extent, the Buccaneers are struggling because of the toll that participating in the CAF Confederation Cup took on their players, when they went all the way to the final last year before losing to Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel.

Sundowns, on other hand, didn’t have such commitments after they were eliminated early in the Champions League by eventual winners TP Mazembe. Patrice Carteron, who led Mazembe to continental glory, said Sundowns were the toughest side they faced in that campaign.

That, along with Mosimane’s desire to be an African champion, will motivate the Brazilians when they start their continental campaign on Saturday.

That’s why the club will look to create a big cushion between themselves and the chasing pack before things get hectic in the Champions League, although it won’t be that bad as only the qualifying rounds will be played between now and the end of the season in May.

The Buccaneers want to continue clawing their way to the top eight of the domestic top-flight, with Tinkler targeting finishing better than the fourth place they finished on the table last season, which would also guarantee the side continental football next year. - Cape Times

Original source: Pirates v Sundowns: Three key battles