The 2020/21 season will be the 25th season since the Premier Soccer League was established. What better way to kick off the PSL’s silver jubilee than having two of your most successful teams face off. Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns went toe-to-toe to the final round of games last season and were only separated in the last half-hour. Yet, much has changed in the last two months.
It won’t be Middendorp v Mosimane on the touchline, as both sides have changed coaching personnel. It will be Hunt v Mngqithi, Mokwena and Komphela. No, that is not the name of a law firm. On the field, Sundowns have made some new signings, while Chiefs haven’t been able to make even one (transfer ban pending). One thing that hasn’t changed, however – this remains a heavyweight clash.
49 – This will be the 49th clash between Chiefs and Sundowns since 1996/97, making it the most common fixture played between any two sides in the PSL era. No side has beaten Sundowns on more occasions in the league than Chiefs (20).
Masandawna Create Chances
As Sundowns found out in the MTN8 defeat, having all the firepower upfront does not automatically guarantee goals. Yet, they may consider themselves unfortunate not to have found the net at least once on Sunday. Celtic keeper, Jackson Mabokgwane was Man of the Match in that game, showing how busy a frontline featuring Erasmus, Shalulile, Sirino and Themba Zwane kept him. If Sundowns continue creating chances as they did on Sunday, it’s only a matter of time before the goals start to flow.
Chiefs Can Find Success At Set-Pieces
Besides the strikeforce, Sundowns’ defence has been formidable in recent games. They have won their last seven games by an aggregate score of 9-2, including five clean sheets in the process. So another defensive performance could keep Chiefs at bay, but one issue that stands out is the manner of the goals they have conceded of late. Three of the last four goals Downs have conceded have come from set-piece situations. On Saturday, they come against the masters of the set-piece game.
History Suggests Both Teams Will Score
That said, the last meeting between the two sides was a rather cagey encounter. Sundowns scored early and set up to frustrate Chiefs for the rest of the game. The approach was understandable, given that the league title was at stake and expansive football would have been risky. Yet, that was an anomaly. Of the previous eight meetings, both sides have scored in this game on six occasions. There have also been two or more goals in this league fixture on seven of the last eight occasions, a record going back to April 2016.
Who Usually Starts Well?
Both sides are fast starters in the league, with Chiefs the best starters historically among all the current top-flight teams. Since 1996/97, Chiefs average 1.82 points and 1.5 goals per game in their opening five games, while Sundowns average 1.73 and 1.39 points per game (2nd overall).
More recently, however, since 2016, Sundowns have started rather strongly. The 1.95 points per game in the opening five games is the best ratio of all current top-flight teams, while Chiefs are only 5th best – 1.60 points per game.
12 – Sundowns are unbeaten in their last 12 season opening games, winning seven and drawing twelve since a 2-1 defeat to AmaZulu in August 2007.
While these records depend on the quality of opposition you’re playing, Chiefs and Sundowns have met twice in the opening gameweek of a league season. Amakhosi won 2-0 thanks to John Moshoeu and Patrick Mayo in 2003/04, while the 2018/19 clash ended 1-1. That draw was one of three Chiefs have seen on opening day in the last five seasons.
1 – Chiefs have won just one of their last five opening fixtures, drawing three and losing the other one.
Both sides suffered shock losses over the weekend and with two new coaching appointments on either bench, the pressure not to lose will be immense.
A tight match is expected after both sides fired blanks in their respective MTN8 matches. It’s the first match of the season, with new coaches desperate for a solid start and a draw for either will be a solid start for both Chiefs and Pirates.