Sport

Relegation Battle: The Final Round

With 2018/19 Premier League coming to an end this Saturday, football fans are waiting in anticipation for the crowning of the champions but most importantly, all eyes will be on relegation contenders.

Five teams are embroiled in the PSL relegation dogfight that will go down to the final day of the season.

Maritzburg United remain bottom of the league as they have been all year but the Team of Choice have improved vastly under Eric Tinkler and shown an appetite for the scrap.

The 16th placed team will be relegated at the end of the season while the team that ends 15th will need to survive a playoff with an opponent from the National First Division.

Baroka won the Telkom Knockout earlier this season, an achievement that would surely lose some its shine if the club were to be dumped out of the PSL just a few months later. Maritzburg United (26 points) need to beat Baroka to survive the chop.

Black Leopards (27 points) who play at home, go up against Cape Town City needing a win desperately to move to 30 points and end the season on a high note. 

One of the biggest games for the weekend is without doubt between Free State Stars (27 points) and log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns at Goble Park, Bethlehem. Ea Lala Koto will need nothing but maximum points from this game with Sundowns needing the same to be crowned champions yet again.

Free State Stars coach Nikola Kavazovic admitted sending scouts to monitor NFD clubs who could be involved in the Promotion-relegation playoff, fearing that his team has gone into a terminal flat spin.

“We are in a very tough situation, I’m very honest, that’s why we have already sent our scouts to watch NFD sides who might be our opponents in the playoffs,” he said.

“We are not strong enough mentally. I don’t think we can compete with Chiefs and Sundowns at this stage. Everything is possible but I’m a real man. At this stage, we don’t have a chance. We can use these matches to prepare for the playoffs,” he noted.

Speaking to the club’s website ahead of the final game, Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said, “I told the players to try their best and win against Free State Stars. We are not travelling there for anything less than three points. We are not saying they are going to hand the game to us because they are not. They are going to fight us from the first whistle and push us every chance they get but we have a game plan and we must stick to it and ensure that we get all three points that will see us lifting the trophy.”

Chippa United are second from bottom, having lost their last three league assignments. They certainly have the quality to stay up and might fancy their chances in the playoff if they cannot escape the bottom two in the closing weeks. Chippa (27 points) need to beat Kaizer Chiefs to survive. It will be a tough encounter as Chiefs need a draw to qualify for save face and qualify for a Top 8 position.

With various coaches expressing their views on who’ll be crowned champion come Saturday, the view that stands out the most is that of City coach and former Orlando Pirates player Benni McCarthy.

Speaking ahead of the showdown, McCarthy said he wanted to apologise to Pirates for dimming their title dreams, also adding that he favours Sundowns to win the league.

“I have to again sincerely apologise to Orlando Pirates that today wasn’t going to be the day where they become champions on my watch,” McCarthy told the media after the game.

“I back Sundowns. Now they are going to be more dangerous because they are going to have a lot of time to focus, I think they‘ve got a bigger squad and a lot of quality replacements that you can make. As much as I say one point gained is better than still having to play, I rather have the two games. Their position is far better and in this situation, Pitso Mosimane knows what he has to do,” he added.

By: Thapelo Molebatsi