Mamelodi Sundowns take on Stellenbosch FC on Wednesday night at Loftus Stadium just four days after playing in Morocco and three days before the Telkom Knockout Final. Some changes are expected to be made to Pitso Mosimane’s starting XI for the clash.
With Sundowns sitting 13 points off Kaizer Chiefs with two games in hand, this is a must-win fixture ahead of the cup final. However, don’t expect a full strength lineup with so little recovery time between matches.
On Saturday, Downs drew 0-0 away to Wydad Casablanca in the CAF Champions League, a game which saw Themba Zwane and Denis Onyango return from hamstring injuries and the side’s usual narrow 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2) shape in operation. It was an excellent defensive display and a well-earned point, but after a flight home via Europe after that match, not many of that XI is likely to be selected at Loftus Stadium.
One change will see Gaston Sirino miss out through suspension after his red card against Golden Arrows in the semi-final. Had the Stellenbosch game been postponed as originally planned, in accordance with PSL guidelines to allow a full week of preparation for teams playing a cup final, then Sirino would have missed Saturday’s showpiece against Maritzburg United.
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However, the game will now go ahead, meaning Sirino will complete his ban and return for the final. That was no doubt a major motivator in Sundowns requesting that the game be reinstated. The venue has also been changed to be played in Tshwane, meaning no flight to Cape Town is required in such a chaotic week. Sirino’s place is likely to go to Sibusiso Vilakazi for this clash.
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For Sundowns’ last domestic match – a 1-0 win against AmaZulu – both Hlompho Kekana and Tebogo Langerman were left out. Both players are on three yellow cards and would miss the final if they were booked against Steve Barker’s charges, so both are certain to be in the stands. Tiyani Mabunda and Lyle Lakay are expected to step into the starting XI.
With Zwane just back from two months out injured, he is not expected to start the game either, whilst Mauricio Affonso was injured in training on the eve of the Wydad game and that quadriceps issue may keep him out too.
Sundowns likely starting XI (4-2-2-2): Onyango – Ngcongca, Madisha, Arendse, Lakay – Mabunda, Coetzee – Mkhulise, Vilakazi – Maboe, Meza.
As for Stellenbosch, they will carry a real threat of their own with Waseem Isaacs and Iqraam Rayners up front, especially if Ryan Moon joins them in a front three and brings his aerial prowess to the table. They will likely set up defensively and in a low block (deep, contact defensive line), then look to exploit space on the counter attack. Robyn Johannes missed their last game with injury, but is expected to be fit enough to return.