Sat. May 30th, 2020

Mamelodi Sundowns vs SuperSport United – Tactical Preview

Mamelodi Sundowns and Supersport United could not be separated in the first leg of the MTN 8 semi-finals but Grant de Smidt looks at what might be the difference between the two sides.

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On Wednesday, Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United clash in the MTN8 semi-final second leg at Lucas Moripe Stadium. The sides drew 1-1 in the first leg after an action-packed game. How could the game pan out tactically and where will it be won and lost?

SuperSport’s Aerial Advantage

For many seasons, Matsatsantsa have been a direct team who can hurt teams on crosses, counter attacks, long balls and set-plays. In the first leg of this tie, that strength was brought into sharp focus. Kaitano Tembo’s men had several clear-cut chances from these situations as they used their height advantage over a relatively small Sundowns side.

Thamsanqa Gabuza had three chances in the game, one from a headed chance from a corner, one from a deep cross from the right and one after a counter attack. His presence and SuperSport’s height from corners means that Pitso Mosimane will probably start some of his taller options such as Anele Ngcongca at right back and Sammy Seabi in front of the back four.

Sundowns’ Interplay and Switching Play

After a fast start by Tembo’s side in the first leg, Sundowns looked to take the sting out of proceedings by keeping the ball. Their interplay in forward areas with four players narrow between-the-lines has caused SuperSport problems in every recent meeting.

This season, Tembo has largely used a 4-3-3 shape with Bradley Grobler and Rusike either side of Gabuza in attack. That leaves the side with little defensive cover on the flanks, giving the fullbacks real problems when dealing with narrow wingers. If SuperSport’s fullbacks try to track them inside, there is vast space for the opposition’s fullbacks to exploit. Gaston Sirino’s first leg goal came via Tebogo Langerman’s untracked run to join the attack.

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Mamelodi Sundowns forward Gaston Sirino celebrates during the Premiership match between Black Leopards and Mamelodi Sundowns at Thohoyandou Stadium in Thohoyandou, South Africa. Photo: Philip Maeta/Gallo Images

However, if SuperSport’s fullbacks don’t track Sirino and Themba Zwane, then Dean Furman is overload with three or four men to deal with. There is also significant space to counter attack up the sides when SuperSport’s fullbacks bomb forward, as neither central defender is comfortable defending one-versus-one in the wide areas.

Kekana’s ability to switch play out to his fullbacks is always a big weapon and will stretch a SuperSport midfield expected to shift across the pitch to help cover holes behind their wide forwards. 

Key Battles

Central midfield is certain to be a crucial area. Sipho Mbule has excelled for SuperSport this season in an all-action role, and he both made several tackles and created several chances in the first leg. In Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Cape Town City, he arrived late in the box to score a fine half-volley.

Dean Furman has been one of the country’s finest big-game players since returning to the PSL and he will play in the holding role. The third position could go to any of Tebogo Mokoena, Jamie Webber or Aubrey Modiba, who played centrally to great effect in the first half of last season.

Sundowns are expected to continue with their slightly tweaked shape in the engine room that has been seen this campaign so far. Instead of Hlompho Kekana being one of two deeper midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 shape, Pitso Mosimane has given him extra support by switching to a three-man midfield. This comprises one genuine holding midfielder plus Kekana and Sibusiso Vilakazi to link play. The latter’s presence slightly deeper means that Kekana has less ground to cover and more attacking license at the age of 34. Whichever team comes out on top in midfield will have a great chance of winning this game.

The other really key battle looks set to be on the Sundowns left where Tebogo Langerman is expected to bomb forward to supplement the attack. Last season, SuperSport left him untracked, then won the ball and launched counter attacks through Modiba, who had stayed high up the pitch.

In the first leg, Evans Rusike took on the same role and had a field day with his dribbling and pace in the vacate channel behind Sundowns’ left back.

Predicted lineups

Mamelodi Sundowns (4-3-3): Onyango; Ngcongca, Arendse, Lebusa, Langerman; Seabi, Kekana, Vilakazi; Zwane, Maboe, Sirino.

SuperSport United (4-3-3): Williams; Nhlapo, Khumalo, Daniels, Bhasera; Mbule, Furman, Modiba; Rusike, Gabuza, Grobler.

Mamelodi Sundowns vs Supersport United Summary

This should be an exciting game with Sundowns looking to dominate possession and SuperSport playing percentage football to draw corners and freekicks and playing off the second ball. The two crucial battles are likely to decide who progresses to the MTN8 final.

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