PSL’s Africa, top eight and relegation battles heat up




African News Agency


MAMELODI Sundowns will head to the penultimate round of the DStv Premiership season as the only team that has fulfilled their targets for the campaign, with the top three, top eight and survival spots still up for grabs. The Brazilians bagged their record fifth title in a row – and 12th in total since the inception of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) 26 years ago. In the midst of the euphoria that has engulfed the club, Sundowns are still eager to finish the campaign on a high. The Brazilians could finish the season with 68 points, one point better than last season, if they win their last two matches against Stellenbosch FC at home this afternoon and away to runners-up hopefuls Royal AM next Saturday. Winning the two matches will not only tighten Sundowns’ grip at the top of the standings but it will aid in their preparations for the Nedbank Cup final where they’ll clinch a domestic treble if they beat defending champions Marumo Gallants. They claimed the MTN8 earlier this season. That’s all thanks to the depth within the squad as a number of players raised their hands when called upon by coaching trio Rulani Mokwena, Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela. The other local club that will join Sundowns in the CAF Champions League next season is yet to be confirmed, with as many as four teams – Cape Town City, Royal AM, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates – still in the running. City have the advantage. The Citizens are second and three points ahead of Royal AM who have a game in hand. They’ll be eager to extend their lead when they face AmaZulu this afternoon, while Royal AM cannot afford to slip up against Golden Arrows. City might have burst into life in the final stretch of the season as they remain the only unbeaten team in the league this year, but Thwihli Thwahla are winless in their last four matches in all competitions. The two Soweto giants, Chiefs and Pirates, have struggled with inconsistency, hence not many punters will bet on them to finish in the top two, although they could still qualify for the Confederation Cup by finishing third. Consistency is key in crunch periods. And Chiefs have struggled in this regard, with interim coach Arthur Zwane, who replaced the sacked Stuart Baxter due to poor results, failing to hit the ground running. Finishing in the top three is not a priority for all the 16 teams in the top flight, unlike finishing in the top eight. As things stand, the top 11 teams are competing to qualify for the MTN8 next season. The 11th-placed Gallants and 10th-placed Sekhukhune United are on 32 points, five behind eighthplaced SuperSport United. Should SuperSport beat Baroka this afternoon, Gallants and Sekhukhune will be out of the race. Meanwhile, the guillotine could still fall on one of the five bottom outfits, Maritzburg United, Chippa United, TS Galaxy, Swallows and Baroka. It is the 15th-placed Swallows and bottom club Baroka that are mostly tipped to go down, although one of the teams could still save their status via the promotion/relegation play-off matches, with the draw set to be done tomorrow.