Steve Komphela and Manqoba Mngqithi (Gallo Images)
- This past weekend’s DStv Premiership results have opened two clear title races lanes, that of Mamelodi Sundowns and AmaZulu.
- Sundowns waltzed past Orlando Pirates on Sunday to re-establish their lead while AmaZulu saw off Golden Arrows on Saturday.
- Golden Arrows are further off the pace in third, but can’t be discounted.
AmaZulu and to an extent, Golden Arrows have ensured Mamelodi Sundowns’ title defence will not be unchecked.
The trio-coached Sundowns have two games in hand over the second and third-placed Durban teams, but they only have one point to play with when it comes to AmaZulu and eight with Golden Arrows.
They may look like reasonable gaps, but having seen how Kaizer Chiefs choked at the end of last season, anything is possible in football.
With the other sides in the top eight out of contention, one of Sundowns, AmaZulu and Arrows will be celebrating on 29 May unless they have the mother of collective meltdowns.
Here are how their run-ins look:
Mamelodi Sundowns – First with 51 points after 24 games.
Remaining matches: v Maritzburg United (home, 5 May), v TS Galaxy (away, 11 May), v SuperSport United (home, 19 May), v Bloemfontein Celtic (away, 26 May), v Cape Town City (home, 29 May)
If the two CAF Champions League quarter-finals against Al-Ahly are factored in, Sundowns face the possibility of playing eight games between Wednesday’s home tie against Maritzburg United and the final game of the league season against Cape Town City.
One would suspect that the Premier Soccer League won’t be benevolent with postponements because of the business end of the season. The 26 and 29 May kick-offs will be simultaneous. Sixty points has generally been enough to win the league, so three wins from the next six games should be enough for Sundowns.
However, Sundowns haven’t been immune to form slumps, which was the case before hammering Orlando Pirates. They may also not have lost to the six teams they’re facing in the run-in, but they were held by Maritzburg, SuperSport and Celtic while Cape Town City have generally been difficult for Sundowns.
AmaZulu – Second with 50 points after 26 games.
Remaining matches: v Baroka (home, 11 May), v Orlando Pirates (away, 19 May), v Moroka Swallows (home, 26 May), v Maritzburg United (away, 29 May)
AmaZulu’s run-in may consist of teams that on any other day they would beat, but they all have something to play for. If they win all of their games, they’ll finish on 62 points, but to win the league, they’ll need Sundowns to lose at least four of their last six.
Baroka, their 11 May opponents, have the top eight in mind while crossing 30 points will mean they’re safe from relegation. Pirates may have pride to play for, but they’re still well within finishing second, which will guarantee them a place in next season’s CAF Confederations Cup.
The same is also applicable for Swallows, who are the draw kings while Maritzburg United have been able to drag themselves away from the relegation battle. They’re not safe, but with six games remaining, Maritzburg (25) require at least seven points from those games to guarantee their safety.
That could help AmaZulu immensely as relegation-threatened teams are the worst to face at this juncture.
Golden Arrows – Third with 43 points from 26 games
Remaining matches: v Maritzburg United (away, 12 May), v TS Galaxy (home, 19 May), v Kaizer Chiefs (away, 26 May), Stellenbosch (home, 29 May)
The most Golden Arrows can collect from a points perspective is 55 points, which as things stand won’t be enough to get them their first league title. They also have tricky fixtures against relegation-prone and top-eight chasing teams. However, they’ll be the biggest beneficiary of an AmaZulu meltdown.
Arrows though will rue their high number of drawn matches (13) as the reason for their faded challenge as they’ve only lost three to AmaZulu’s four. AmaZulu have four more wins, including this past Saturday’s Durban derby.
However, Arrows cannot be discounted, especially at the time of the season where the grey matter and not the type of football, separates the boys from the men.