With 70% of the season completed and Sundowns seemingly cruising to yet another league title, this feels like a good time to start asking questions around where teams will end up. Who will finish second? Who will make the Top 8, and who can survive the drop to the Glad Africa Championship? Part 1 of this series looks at a few teams chasing 2nd spot and automatic qualification to the CAF Champions League. After all, nine teams have ended the day in 2nd place since the start of the season: Arrows, Chippa, Stellenbosch, Pirates, Supersport, Chiefs, Royal AM, Sekhukhune and AmaZulu. But who will get the prize?
Pirates actually haven’t lost too many games (their four defeats have come only to Sundowns & Chiefs), and that has been enough to see them steadily rise in points throughout the season. However, the Bucaneers have won back-to-back matches just twice this season, and have not gone on a 3-game winning streak in the league since the bio-bubble.
That inconsistency means they have been hovering just outside the Top4 line all season, and may end up there unless they rally some positive results in the run-in. Their fixtures feature a lot of teams currently outside the Top 8 (green), so that may still work in their favour.
Despite falling off a bit in September (Chiefs didn’t win any of the four games that month), Amakhosi have had a better season from October onwards. Since mid-October, chiefs average more points per game than any other side in the league (2.23). Their Expected Points total has mirrored a side destined for 5th or 6th, but their actual points total resembles a 2nd placed side.
The remaining fixtures are a mix, with a few games against bottom-half teams coming before they face Supersport & Stellenbosch (who beat Chiefs already this campaign). If the PSL judgements on their unplayed games end up in their favour (i.e they are played & Chiefs win), a late title charge would not be off the cards. Plus, they don’t have any Cup distractions.
No doubt, Royal AM have been the surprise team of the season so far. Back-to-back opening defeats left them in the relegation zone, before a 4-game winning run brought John Maduka’s side back on track. Since then they’ve been winning points at a rate you’d expect of a Top4 side, while their Expected Points resemble a Top 8 team, so they may have ridden their luck a bit.
Thwihli-Thwahla may yet run out of steam as the business end of the season approaches, but the depth of their squad could prove a benefit here. Four points ahead of Pirates with a game in hand, the fixture against the Buccaneers in May could turn out to be the six-pointer that decides who qualifies for the CAF Confederations Cup next season.