Preview: Mamelodi Sundowns

Orlando Pirates make their long-awaited return to competitive action with a trip to Loftus Versfeld, where they face off against Mamelodi Sundowns in a DStv Premiership fixture played on Saturday night.

After a month-long recess, domestic football returns in grand fashion with the two giants of South African football crossing swords in a blockbuster clash to round up Saturday’s league action.

Form Guide 

The hosts were among the last to take to the field prior to the break, dropping points for only the second time this season as they were held to a goalless draw at home by Polokwane City.

They remain top of the standings, unbeaten in their 14 matches played, and have won three of their last five games while playing to two stalemates.

They will be looking to extend the considerable gap they have opened up at the top but will face a stern challenge against the Buccaneers, who are currently 13 points adrift in fifth place.

The Soweto Giants endured a sharp turn in fortunes towards the end of last year, losing twice in a row right after going unbeaten in their previous six league games.

They have collected nine points through three victories in their five most recent outings, beating Moroka Swallows and TS Galaxy at Orlando Stadium before blunting Golden Arrows in their own backyard. 

Now tasked with ending their rivals’ unbeaten start to the campaign, they head to Tshwane in search of another crucial win that could bump them up to fourth place.

Team News 

Both camps have had a few boosts in terms of playing personnel, including the return of players from AFCON duty as well as new signings brought in during the January transfer window.

Thabiso Lebitso and Thalente Mbatha will both be eyeing debut appearances in Pirates colours, while striker Tshegofatso Mabasa has a chance to feature once again for the Club after his return from loan. Also nearing his First-Team debut for the Buccaneers is attacking midfielder Azola Matrose, who is fully fit after his spell on the sidelines, while goalkeeper Sipho Chaine is also among those back in full training following an injury layoff.

The hosts have meanwhile made four January signings of their own, and have recently welcomed several players back from international duty.

Sundowns have some injury concerns after midfielder Thapelo Maseko played no part in South Africa’s last two games in the continental showpiece following a hamstring injury picked up during the quarterfinal clash against Cape Verde.

Key Players

Patrick Maswanganyi (Orlando Pirates): “Tito” will be keen to pick up where he left off in the opening half of the season, where he emerged as one of the leading creative players in the league. Possessing boundless energy and an uncanny ability to spot an opportunity, the 25-year-old has provided seven assists in all competitions while popping up on the scoresheet from time to time.

Teboho Mokoena (Mamelodi Sundowns): The midfielder will again be key for Sundowns, should he feature on Saturday. Mokoena impressed at AFCON with his commanding displays from the centre of the park, showcasing an unparalleled ability to read the game while also posing a goal-scoring threat, both in set pieces and open play.

Head-to-Head 

The two rivals have met twice already in the current season, producing tightly-contested spectacles in cup and league football.

Pirates prevailed in the MTN8 final, winning on penalties to clinch the title, weeks after suffering a 1-0 home defeat in the Premiership.

They will be looking to put an end to Sundowns’ recent dominance in league fixtures between the two sides, having last taken three points against the Tshwane outfit a little over four years ago. 

How to Watch Orlando Pirates vs Mamelodi Sundowns 

The game is scheduled to kick off at 20:00 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport PSL. You can also follow the action by following live updates shared across Orlando Pirates social media platforms, including the Club’s official mobile app.

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