Nedbank Cup Preview: Mamelodi Sundowns

South Africa comes to a standstill this weekend as Orlando Pirates take on Mamelodi Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup final held at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

A sell-out crowd is expected at the World Cup venue as two of the country’s biggest football teams each chase their second piece of domestic silverware in a fitting show-stopper for the 2023/24 season. It promises to be a thrilling affair as the Buccaneers take the final step in their title defence against a side determined to wrestle back the trophy they last hoisted in 2022.

Form Guide

The two Gauteng rivals have charted different paths to the final, with Pirates posting significant winning margins against their previous opponents.

Lower league outfits Crystal Lake and Hungry Lions fell on the wrong side of some lopsided results as the Soweto Giants breezed through the two opening rounds with 10 unanswered goals. This was followed by a significant step up in competition in the quarterfinals against AmaZulu where they pulled off a 4-2 win away from home before booking their spot in the final with a 3-1 win away to Chippa United.

More recent results however tell a different story, as they head off to Mbombela on the back of a less-than-ideal finish to their league campaign where they earned a single point in their last three games, which was just enough to place them in second place in the final standings.

They go toe-to-toe with a Sundowns side that began their Nedbank Cup campaign with straightforward victories against MM Platinum and Maritzburg United before they were made to sweat by Tshwane rivals University of Pretoria, who they saw off in a penalty shootout to advance to the semifinals.

The Brazilians booked their spot in the final with a hard-fought 2-1 win away to Stellenbosch, but also head into the final looking to rediscover their winning form after falling to a defeat against Cape Town City in their final league game.

Having been crowned league champions, they will be gunning for a domestic double against a side looking to complete a double of their own.

Team News

Sundowns are expected to be without several first-team players, with the likes of Bathusi Aubaas and Thapelo Maseko nursing long-term injuries while Grant Kekana, Aubrey Modiba, and Thembinkosi Lorch are also among the doubtful starters.

They will be boosted by the return of attacking pair Siphelele Mkhulise and Marcos Allende, who both return from suspension after having to sit out the game against City.

For Pirates, Nkosinathi Sibisi is back to bolster the defensive options after not featuring in their final league game against SuperSport United due to a one-match ban.

There have been some welcome developments on the injury front with Miguel Timm and Thabiso Lebitso both back at training after making significant strides in terms of recovery, while Tapelo Xoki is a notable absentee having been ruled out of the encounter.

Key Players

Patrick Maswanganyi (Orlando Pirates): One of the standout players in this year’s Nedbank Cup, Maswanganyi leads the charge with six goal contributions in the competition and will be eager to add to that tally in the final. With his expansive skill set, the 25-year-old is equally adept at creating and finishing off opportunities and will require some attention from the defence.

Ronwen Williams (Mamelodi Sundowns): The Sundowns keeper will be looking to cap off another stellar season with a big performance in this crucial encounter. Williams’ calm demeanour and leadership will be vital throughout the duration of the match, and he could prove to be his side’s main trump card in a game that could potentially be decided via a shootout.

Head-to-Head

This will be the second cup final contested by the two sides this season, following October’s MTN8 clash at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Pirates were victorious then, winning 3-1 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes.

That marathon encounter was just one of three tight results between the two sides in the 2023/24 season, with their two league encounters yielding a 1-0 away win for Sundowns before they played to a thrillin 1-1 stalemate at Loftus Versfeld.

In the Nedbank Cup, the Buccaneers have had a slight upper hand against the Brazilians in their five most recent encounters in the competition, eliminating them on three occasions while suffering two defeats.

How to Watch Orlando Pirates vs Mamelodi Sundowns

The game kicks off at 15:00 and will be televised live on SuperSport PSL and SABC 1. You can also follow the action as it happens by keeping an eye on live updates shared across Orlando Pirates’ social media channels.

Tickets to attend the match are sold out.

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