Quite remarkably the Premier Soccer League’s title race still sees seven teams maintaining at least some vague hope of lifting the trophy in May.
Mamelodi Sundowns lead the race three points clear at the top and have their fate in their own hands, even if continental competition means they won’t play again in the PSL until their 7 April date with Supersport United, the Brazilians are the favourites to claim the title.
Pitso Mosimane’s men have paced their title charge well to date even if fans have been left frustrated by a lack of dominance from a squad that is quite evidently the best in the PSL. It is that inability to stamp their authority on the league that has left as many as seven teams believing they could win the trophy.
All seven of those sides also have seven games remaining in their PSL campaigns but continental football will disrupt the run-ins of Sundowns and Pirates.
Here we look at each of those seven teams remaining fixtures and rate their chances of being crowned PSL Champions.
The defending Champions started slowly and have had their campaign constantly interrupted by participation in the Caf Champions League and the result has been a lack of fluency in their football.
Phakamani Mahlambi hasn’t had the impact that fans might have hoped for from the highly rated young Bafana striker but the overall quality of the squad has just about shone through. Downs haven’t been as ruthless in front of goal as they could have been so far this term, with Gaston Sirino and co in midfield still creating plenty of chances and in that sense they are still missing departed stars Percy Tau and Khama Billiat.
Sundowns have a massive showdown with Orlando Pirates on Freedom Day at the Orlando Stadium but apart from that they have what should be a straightforward run of games. Their next match in the PSL is only on 7 April when they host a Supersport United side who are in contention for continental football and have a very slim shot at the title itself. After the visit of Supersport, Downs go on a brief tour of Limpopo to face Baroka and Black Leopards in matches that will be tough but should be won by a top side.
Sundowns PSL fixtures:
7 April vs Supersport United (H)
14 April vs Baroka FC (A)
18 April vs Black Leopards (A)
23 April vs Chippa United (H)
27 April vs Orlando Pirates (A)
*8 May vs Golden Arrows (H)
11 May vs Free State Stars (A)
In a manner of speaking Pirates also have their fate in their own hands provided they can string together a series of victories ahead of their 27 April fixture against title favourites Sundowns.
Like the Brazilians, the Buccaneers have had a disrupted and frustrating season as they have been chasing top spot throughout but have missed a handful of opportunities to take control of the race.
The Soweto Derby win back in October looked like it might be the spark that ignited a run to a first PSL title since 2012 but Pirates have been guilty of a lack of intensity particularly against teams further down the table, epitomized in the goalless stalemate against basement boys Maritzburg United at the Orlando Stadium in December when Pirates looked to be bound for the top of the table.
Their coach has dismissed any suggestion that Pirates narcoleptic tendencies are down to a lack of effort or an attempt to preserve energy.
Pirates have a tough run in and will need to remain switched on if they are to keep themselves in the race long enough to keep the pressure on Sundowns. Just three days earlier Pirates will visit relegation threatened Maritzburg United. Despite their log position the Team of Choice are a tough nut to crack at the Harry Gwala stadium and you can’t visit Pietermaritzburg without slipping into a deep depression.
Orlando Pirates PSL fixtures:
29 March vs Black Leopards (H)
6 April vs Bidvest Wits (A)
13 April vs Free State Stars (H)
24 April vs Maritzburg United (A)
27 April vs Mamelodi Sundowns (H)
*8 May vs Cape Town City (A)
11 May vs Polokwane City (H)
Cape Town City
Benni McCarthy’s team have found themselves involved in the title race in a way that felt like it happened over night but has been driven by the attacking brand of football being played by the Mother City club with a questionable choice of name.
With 39 goals scored the Citizens are the top scoring club in the PSL but they have also leaked 30 in at the other end placing them 12th on the league’s defensive table. Coach McCarthy seems to believe that his ragtag group are greater than the sum of their parts and a current league position of third seems to support that view.
The final seven games of the campaign will not be without their challenges but the freewheeling Cape Town City appear to be handling the pressure well as chasers but they could find themselves at the top of the tree if they can put away Polokwane City and Golden Arrows in their next two assignments, which take place before league leaders Sundowns play again.
Cape Town City PSL fixtures:
15 March vs Polokwane City (H)
6 April vs Golden Arrows (A)
14 April vs Bloemfontein Celtic (A)
23 April vs Highlands Park (H)
26 April vs Chippa United (A)
*8 May vs Orlando Pirates (H)
11 May vs Black Leopards (A)
The club that looked primed to take the PSL by the scruff of its neck at the turn of the year have suffered a series of setbacks that triggered a string of apoplectic reactions from manager Gavin Hunt.
The Wits boss has let it be known that he feels his team have been hard done by when it comes to decisions by officials this season but his team are not out of the title race by any stretch of the imagination.
They are five points off the top and victory in Bloemfontein this weekend could see them jump to second depending on what happens when Polokwane City visit Cape Town on the same day.
Wits have been given a lesson in how fine the margin between success and failure can be, with Hunt and his men knowing that but for a few critical turnarounds they would be in pole position right now.
Bidvest Wits PSL fixtures:
15 March vs Bloemfontein Celtic (A)
6 April vs Orlando Pirates (H)
12 April vs Chippa United (A)
24 April vs Black Leopards (H)
27 April vs Supersport United (A)
*8 May vs Baroka (H)
11 May vs Golden Arrows (A)
After winning four of their last five matches the fifth placed side have tallied as many league victories as the league leaders Sundowns and deserve to be considered as a serious threat to the top four teams.
They have recorded three 1-0 wins in their last four outings claiming nine points despite tallying just four goals but have shown themselves to be an organized team who are well placed to make life uncomfortable for all they meet.
Supersport will be out to terminate Kaizer Chiefs bid to get back into the title race this weekend and a positive result their will confirm that the Pretoria giants are serious contenders for league glory.
They play four of the top seven clubs in their final seven fixtures and even if they don’t win the PSL they will almost certainly have a hand in deciding who does.
Supersport United PSL fixtures:
15 March vs Kaizer Chiefs (H)
7 April vs Mamelodi Sundowns (A)
13 April vs Polokwane City (H)
24 April vs Amazulu (A)
27 April vs Bidvest Wits (H)
*8 May vs Maritzburg United (A)
11 May vs Highlands Park (H)
Like Supersport Polokwane City haven’t really been in the title conversation much but the Limpopo club are currently flying high in sixth place and at seven points off the pace also cannot yet be ruled out.
Of the seven the Limpopo club are probably even less fancied than seventh placed Kaizer Chiefs but they have proven to be a tough team to beat, forcing stalemates in their last three meetings with top seven opponents.
Skipper Jabu Maluleke has led from the front and helped to create the chances that have propelled the unfashionable club into a position of prominence this season ably assisted by Walter Musona on the wing.
The Limpopo club are also poised to impact the other teams in the title race with matches against Cape Town City and Supersport United on the road and a season-ending clash with Pirates at Orlando Stadium.
Polokwane City PSL fixtures:
15 March vs Cape Town City (A)
7 April vs Black Leopards (H)
13 April vs Supersport United (A)
24 April vs Bloemfontein Celtic (H)
27 April vs Highlands Park (A)
*8 May vs Chippa United (H)
11 May vs Orlando Pirates (A)
Any other side eight points off the top with seven games to go would have been written off but some Kaizer Chiefs fans are backing their team for a late run to the title.
Chiefs have had serious problems all over the park this season but their trials and tribulations in goal have attained the level of soap opera after skipper and stopper Ithumeleng Khune’s season-ending injury. Recently 23-year-old Bruce Bvuma has stepped up and has been backed as a long term replacement for the aging Khune.
Off the field and on it Chiefs have flirted with outright banter leaving fans shaking their heads but despite enduring some horrors runs this season they still have a mathematical shot at the title but will need the six teams above them to encounter a series of snafus.
In Chiefs favour is that they probably have what is, on paper, the easiest run-in to the end of the season.
Kaizer Chiefs PSL fixtures:
15 March vs Supersport United (A)
6 April vs Baroka FC (H)
13 April vs Black Leopards (A)
23 April vs Golden Arrows (H)
27 April vs Bloemfontein Celtic (A)
*8 May vs Free State Stars (H)
11 May vs Chippa United (A)
*The penultimate round of PSL fixtures are set to be rescheduled with dates TBC.
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