After a hibernation period in the off season, your humble tipster is back and ready to tackle the upcoming PSL season. There’s been plenty going on during the break and I’ll try to use as much of that info as possible in predicting how things are going to start off this season. Those who love this beautiful league have been treated to some sporadic showings from Chiefs and Pirates in preseason (along with the MTN8) and it will be interesting to observe how the two Soweto giants get on this term, having had little time for proper preparation.
Saturday 08 August
Polokwane City 12/10
Bloemfontein Celtic 19/10
Celtic got their competitive season off to great start on Wednesday evening with a win over Sundowns in the MTN8 quarterfinals. It went down to penalties and the expected classy finishing of Sundowns let them down, with Celtic emerging victorious 4-2. Polokwane ended off the season only scraping through relegation. They looked safe going into the final few weeks but a string of poor performances made things a lot closer than they should’ve been. Sporting the worst defense in the league last season and not being relegated is somewhat of a miracle. They’re going to have to be at their best to avoid the lower table scraps and I fancy Celtic to get off to a positive start. Interestingly it’s Polokwane that are priced as favourites, making a Celtic Draw No Bet a 21/20 gift.
Free State Stars 11/10
Mpumalanga Black Aces 2/1
Stars finished off the 2014/15 PSL season in stylish fashion, catapulting off the bottom with four wins and a draw in their last five matches. They’ve had a relatively quiet off season, shedding a lot of players and really only gaining a few replacements. Whether this is a stroke of genius in streamlining their squad is yet to be proven, but they’ll no doubt be looking to continue where they left things off. Aces finished just two points behind Stars. They went through a purple patch earlier in the season, but a lack of consistency cost them without any real headway being made. Aces have also been quiet in the off season, but have crucially managed to retain their stand out performer from last season, Moeketsi Sekola. This should be an interesting tussle with no real clear signs of who could take it. The home team seems to prevail when these sides meet however, so an extremely timid bet on Stars to win at 11/10 seems the way to go.
Bidvest Wits 8/10
Ajax Cape Town 3/1
Both of these sides celebrated quarter final victories in the MTN8 this week, with Wits downing Supersport 3-1 and Ajax shrugging off some preseason rust to beat Pirates by a solitary goal. These two sides produced stand out performances last season, making this the clash of the weekend. Ajax played some pretty ordinary football in the Cape Town Cup a couple weeks back but seemed up to the task against Bucs, giving the Urban Warriors’ faithful some hope for another great season. Their weakness was their away form last year, with just three wins from fifteen on the road, and think this is where this fixture will be won or lost. Wits provided a more consistent showing both home and away, including a 4-2 home win the last time Ajax travelled to play Wits in the league, and I expect a similarly high scoring affair when they meet this weekend. A Wits win is currently 8/10 and seems value to me.
Platinum Stars 22/10
Mamelodi Sundowns 1/1
Dikwena were absolutely painful to watch last season and while you always thought they were going to retain PSL membership, they certainly cut it fine. Sundowns were their typical selves and ended up as predictable runners-up to a fiery Chiefs side. Sporting a solid defense, again only second to Chiefs, Downs proved tough to break down and when they wanted to be, lethal on attack. An improvement in consistent goal scoring this season could prove the difference for them on attack, whilst Dikwena have a mountain to climb to mimic successful finishes of theirs in the past. Despite being on the road and not making any significant additions to their squad yet, I can’t expect anything less than a full strength display from Sundowns. At even money for the win, it may be the value bet of the weekend for PSL punters.
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Sunday 09 August
Golden Arrows 15/10
University of Pretoria 15/10
Arrows are back in top flight football after cleaning up in the first division last season. They kick off their PSL return by hosting an AmaTuks side that disappointed for the second season in a row. Many experts believed they could deliver a surprise in both of the previous two seasons but this hasn’t materialised and many wouldn’t have been surprised to see them go down last season. Alas, they are still with us, and with nine new additions to their squad, including Pirates striker Luyanda Bacela, things could be different this year. Arrows come in with confidence, but with the bitter taste of previous failures in the top flight haunting them, we could have an interesting clash on our hands. Neither side will really know where they stand ahead of this, but both will be anxious to make early inroads. For this reason, I’ve gone with Both Teams To Score to take advantage of this mutual anxiety. At even money, it looks a solid choice.
Chippa United 4/1
Kaizer Chiefs 6/10
Chippa were the early surprise last season, but the demanding nature of top flight football caught up with them, causing an almost catastrophic plummet that resulted in a them avoiding promotion/relegation playoffs purely on goal difference. Bringing that poor form into the PSL this year would almost guarantee them relegation and they’re my early pick to take the drop. Chiefs have been full of news in the off season, including the arrival of Steve Komphela as new head coach and the ongoing Itu Khune debacle. Coming up against the dominant champions first up is going to be psychologically more daunting than the physical task at hand. Bookies have priced up accordingly and if you’re happy about the 6/10 on offer for an away win, then back the AmaKhosi to kick off the season with a convincing three points.
Monday 10 August
Maritzburg United 8/10
Jomo Cosmos 3/1
There are few sides I enjoy more than Jomo Cosmos and it’s great to see them back in top flight football. They battled Black Leopards and Moroka Swallows in the playoffs and emerged victorious, giving them another shot at the top. Maritzburg United have become a common element of the PSL and this entrenchment through the highs and lows of survival has seen them grow into a formidable side, more so at home. Cosmos will have their work cut out when they make the trip. Years back, when Cosmos were the PSL stalwarts and Maritzburg the new kid on the block, the rivalry was fierce with no real side having the upper hand. Maritzburg have traded out a couple players for some fresh influence, the arriving loanee from Pirates, Manti Moholo, being the most notable. I’m expecting a cagey affair and with the result in the balance, I’m leaning towards Under 2.5 Goals at 11/20 to be the best bet.
Tuesday 11 August
SuperSport United 22/10
Orlando Pirates 11/10
Both sides failed to live up to the expectations of their fans and followers last season. Pirates should have been in title contention much earlier on and SuperSport should’ve been involved in more top four scraps. As it was, they finished fourth and sixth respectively. Pirates have been busy in the off season with continental cup action as well as an early exit from the MTN8. As it has proven in recent seasons, their efforts in the Confed Cup could again hinder their exploits in the league. Only time will tell if this curse has lifted. SuperSport, on the other hand, have a solid coach in Gordon Igesund and a platform to launch a more successful campaign this time around. Pirates did the double over them in the league last season but got done in cup competition, making this clash one worth watching. The bookies have Pirates priced up at 11/10, shorter than I would like, making the draw a tempting 21/10. That’s where I’ll be punting my pennies.