Our football writer previews the MTN8 semifinals which take place on Saturday 26 August 2017.
Cape Town City 14/10 | Draw 21/10 | Bidvest Wits 18/10
After going toe-to-toe in the PSL opener, the Citizens once again face off against the Clever Boys in a mouth-watering encounter that will see Benni McCarthy’s charges look to get the better of the defending champions yet again, this time in a knockout tournament. McCarthy’s three-match record since he took over the coaching reins at Cape Town City remains at 100% after he recorded two 1-0 victories over both Polokwane City and Bidvest Wits, and thrashed Platinum Stars 3-1.
City didn’t play convincingly in their first two games but they managed to get the results and in their 3-1 rout of Platinum Stars they produced an improved performance which shows that they have adapted to the coach’s tactics. The side which only came into existence last season after buying Mpumalanga Black Aces’ PSL status has faced Wits five times so far, winning twice, losing once and registering two draws. It’s very interesting to note that their only defeat at the hands of Wits was the first leg at this stage of this tournament last season.
Contrary to what most would have believed pre-season, Wits’ campaign hasn’t kicked off with a bang. They have lost 1-0 to Cape Town City and drew 2-2 with Free State Stars in the league, and to reach this stage of the MTN8 they scraped to a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Golden Arrows after coming back from 2-0 down to salvage a 2-2 draw. Blending new signings with last season’s championship-winning side seems to be giving Gavin Hunt a selection headache as the team continues to play disjointed football and in my opinion leaving Xola Mlambo out of the team over the last three matches has been his biggest mistake.
Hunt alongside his assistant are back on the bench after serving their two-match bans for the red cards they received against Arrows. Both teams will be very cautious in their approach to the game because the result will make the second leg interesting and I’m expecting a draw.
SuperSport Utd 19/20 | Draw 22/10 | Maritzburg United 28/10
SuperSport United players don’t seem to have adapted quickly to Eric Tinkler’s tactics as they managed a nervy 1-0 victory over Kaizer Chiefs in a nail-biting contest to reach this stage of the tournament. The team then lost 1-0 to Mamelodi Sundowns in the league this past weekend in a match where they were totally dominated. They met Chiefs again in the league on Wednesday night who were reduced to 10 men but SuperSport allowed Chiefs to cut the deficit and make the 2-1 victory very interesting towards the end of the game.
It is also interesting to note that they have all the tough encounters at the start of the season as they will play Chiefs in the league on Wednesday evening before this MTN8 fixture. They will have the suspended Dean Furman back for the semi-final as he sat out the Chiefs match due to the red card he received against Sundowns.
As far as The Team of Choice is concerned, Fadlu Davids has been given the coaching role permanently and he seems to be doing something amazing. Over his first three games, he has an immaculate record, having earned a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Mamelodi Sundowns in the MTN8, he went to Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace and beat Platinum Stars 2-0 and also won 2-0 against Ajax Cape Town to top the PSL standings.
The addition of Siyanda Xulu has given the Team of Choice the much-needed depth defensively as he came on for the injured Dennis Wiedliech in the recent encounter and rose to the occasion. Deolin Mekoa, Lebohang Mabo and Evans Rusike form a dangerous trio upfront and will create all sorts of problems for the SuperSport defence. I’m backing both teams to score and the match to have three goals or more.
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