The Soweto derby: How they square up

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The two clubs face off in the Soweto derby at FNB Stadium tomorrow. Who has a squad with enough quality to grab all three points this weekend? Mazola Molefe breaks down the different departments...

Goalkeepers

Pirates - Brighton Mhlongo, Siyabonga Mpontshane, Felipe Ovono

Over the years, Chiefs have always been superior, so it’s no surprise that it is still the case today. Credit should be given to current Pirates No 1 Mhlongo for stepping up when Senzo Meyiwa was killed more than a year ago. But the club’s poor run of late has overshadowed his growth, along with his fight to recover from a recent, lengthy injury lay-off. Expect him to be between the sticks tomorrow. The back-up keepers have been found wanting during Mhlongo’s absence and a reshuffle for the derby will leave Pirates vulnerable. Grade for Pirates: 7/10

Chiefs - Reyaad Pieterse, Brilliant Khuzwayo, Itumeleng Khune

Komphela might consider tinkering his first-choice gloveman. Pieterse has been preferred over Khuzwayo and Khune since Chiefs were thumped 3-1 by Mamelodi Sundowns in the Telkom Knockout final in December. His decent run came to a staggering halt on Sunday when Amakhosi squandered a 1-0 lead in their loss against Dikwena in Cape Town.

All three goalkeepers have been heroes in previous derbies so the switch, which is likely, will not be too much of a concern for the coach. Grade for Chiefs: 9/10

Defenders

Pirates - Tshepo Gumede, Rooi Mahamutsa, Thabo Matlaba, Ayanda Gcaba, Happy Jele, Ntsikelelo Nyauza

The Buccaneers have not inspired confidence; the 3-3 draw against Maritzburg United over a week ago (Tinkler’s men were down by three goals inside the opening 30 minutes) gave the technical team a lot to think about. But they have often looked solid and upped their game against Chiefs. They should also hold some kind of advantage because Amakhosi aren’t much of a threat up front. Grade for Pirates: 5/10

Chiefs - Erick Mathoho, Lorenzo Gordinho, Tsepo Masilela, Siboniso Gaxa, Morgan Gould, Ivan Bukenya

These are the men probably available for selection with numerous players missing through injury, in what has been a challenging season for the Glamour Boys. Komphela was beginning to settle on a consistent back four until Dikwena exposed some cracks ahead of this weekend’s derby.

Amakhosi have conceded 12 goals from 15 matches so far this season. They have come a long way since the 3-1 drubbing against Pirates in October, with the coach having found the ideal combination by sticking with the same back four, including the introduction of young Gordinho. Grade for Chiefs: 6/10

Midfielders

Pirates - Issa Sarr, Edwin Gyimah, Thandani Ntshumayelo, Lehlogonolo Masalesa, Mpho Makola, Menzi Masuku, Yasser Mugerwa, Thabo Qalinge, Roger Majafa, Sifiso Myeni, Thabo Rakhale

There are goals in there somewhere, but they seem to have dried up shortly after Pirates’ emphatic run in last year’s CAF Confederation Cup.

The chopping and changing has not helped Tinkler or the players to find a satisfactory rhythm in trying to claw their way up the PSL table. But who can blame the coach and his selection committee when they are spoiled for choice?

Tinkler will have sleepless nights trying to pick men capable of overpowering Amakhosi in midfield even though, truth be told, they all look a tad above average at the moment.

Perhaps looking back to the 3-1 league win against Chiefs in October can be used for inspiration. Derbies are tough to call, but when the Bucs playmakers are on top of their game, it’s almost a no contest. Their form has not been a true reflection of their ability.

It’s where both teams look the strongest, with the Buccaneers having a slight edge because of the depth under-fire Tinkler enjoys from that part of the pitch. Here is another derby in which to grab headlines, and maybe buy himself another week at the club. Grade for Pirates: 8/10

Chiefs - Willard Katsande, Lucky Baloyi, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala, George Maluleka, George Lebese, Hendrik Ekstein, Sula Matovu, William Twala

Just as well that Komphela spared Katsande, who is a yellow card away from a one-match suspension, in the club’s defeat to Dikwena.

The battle for maximum points in the derby will be won in the middle of the park. And you can trust that the Zimbabwean anchorman will get stuck in.

With Lebese expected to bounce back from a groin injury that forced him out of two league matches against Bloemfontein Celtic and Dikwena, Amakhosi might finally have the luxury to look elsewhere for goals.

If you want trickery and hard tackles, look no further than this midfield, but don’t bank on them to rattle the net. Unlike their more efficient Pirates counterparts, Chiefs players in this department have struggled for ideas, which has contributed to the team’s seven draws from 15 league games. It’s a statistic that has left them eight points behind log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, who also boast scoring midfielders.

Ugandan Matovu has looked a level below PSL material in the games he has been a stop-gap due to Lebese’s unavailability. To even consider the winger would irritate the fans.

New recruit Twala was lively when he made his debut almost two weeks ago and knows what the derby is all about as a former Pirates player.

Komphela would do well do stick with the tried and tested in search of what would be a rare victory for Amakhosi these days. Grade for Chiefs: 6/10

Strikers

If Pirates and Chiefs’ defence has been leaking like a rusty bucket, then there is nothing like a massive encounter such as the Soweto derby for the strikers to step up.

Imagine that, winning over club supporters by scoring against your bitter rivals. The Bucs forwards have not been as clinical as they were during the side’s CAF Confederation Cup run a few months ago, while Amakhosi have had to rely on Lebese’s scoring touch and Katsande’s penalties to get by.

There is an abundance of creativity from both clubs to supply the attackers, although not in equal measure.

On paper, this derby has all the hallmarks of a free-scoring affair given the desperate situation both clubs are in. Pirates are eager to claw their way up the table or risk battling relegation. Yes, relegation. And Chiefs are anxious to catch other PSL title contenders.

Pirates - Kermit Erasmus, Lehlohonolo Majoro, Thamsanqa Gabuza, Tendai Ndoro, Amigo Memela, Gift Motupa

When Erasmus is on the sidelines, like it was the case in their shock defeat to Cosmos, the Buccaneers simply do not tick. The nimble-footed striker had a family emergency hours before his club faced Ezenkosi in Potchefstroom on Sunday, and having to change their game plan on the last minute left them toothless up front.

Another contribution to Pirates’ poor run is the fact that Gabuza, a man who enjoyed a purple patch and scored six times in the Confederation Cup to help them reach the final, has had a dip in form.

You could blame fatigue, but Ndoro and Majoro should be good enough to temporarily take over. That hasn’t happened, which clearly hurts their domestic run, leaving Erasmus with almost too much to do all on his own.

Motupa, who appears to have switched from an attacking midfield role recently to playing as a twin striker, is another alternative. The Under-23 international proved to be a revelation in that position during the Eight Nations tournament in Senegal two months ago, helping the South African U23s book a place at the Rio Olympics later this year. Maybe he needs a few more games under his belt to impress Tinkler. Grade for Pirates: 6/10

Chiefs - Camaldine Abraw, Edward Manqele, Bernard Parker, Siphelele Mthembu, Bongani Ndulula

There’s a big pink elephant right in the middle of the training grounds at Naturena and, until recently, Komphela has been ignoring it.

Chiefs simply cannot count on their strikers to win matches – they have managed a paltry five PSL goals between them at the halfway mark of the campaign. Komphela has been tiptoeing around the issue, but this week admitted that he was in search of a free-scoring forward should the club offer to open up the chequebook before the close of the transfer window.

It was a striker in Abraw who scored against Dikwena on Sunday. The Togolese marksman has been Komphela’s pick as a lone ranger up front and perhaps with a bit more consistency, a panic buy might not be necessary. Grade for Chiefs: 4/10

The Star

Original source: The Soweto derby: How they square up

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