There will be no opportunity for new year festivities for Mamelodi Sundowns or Orlando Pirates players, as they have to prepare for the DSTV Premiership resumption on Saturday.
Unbeaten Sundowns, the current champions and current leaders of the log, will have home advantage against recently-crowned MTN8 champions Pirates.
The Buccaneers are also unbeaten, and have a game in hand, but they are five points behind Sundowns, with just three wins in their seven games so far. Josef Zinnbauer would love to make it four wins after this game.
Pirates are definitely one of the teams who pundits expect to challenge Sundowns for the title this season. They will be buoyed on by their win in the cup, and could make a big statement with a win against the Brazilians, especially at Loftus.
But that is easier said than done. It hasn’t been the perfect start to Sundowns’ season, but considering everything that has happened off-the-field over the past few months, it was never going to be.
Pitso Mosimane left, and that meant there were a few changes that had to happen in the technical team. Also as the club celebrated it’s 50th anniversary, their president announced he would be running for CAF President. Of course when it came to playing staff, there were a lot of new faces in, while a handful of old faces left – and perhaps most significantly, there were the tragic deaths of Anele Ngconga and Motjeka Madisha.There are many clubs who would flounder, with just one of, let alone all of those distractions. Instead they are once again the leading the way.
While Ngcongca was on his way to AmaZulu for a loan spell, Madisha was a key player for Manqoba Mngqithi and Rulani Mokwena’s first team. His absence will be felt and it will be interesting to see how they cope. While they do have options at central defence in their squad, those players may not have been part of the original plan.
But the big question everyone is asking (including the Pirates defence) is whether Themba Zwane will take his 2020 form into 2021? Last season’s Player of the Year raised his game at the start of the new season, and he will be central to Masandawana.
Thembinkosi Lorch’s return for Pirates recently looks to also be key. Their success this season could revolve around his form, and a good season from Lorch could mean the difference between Pirates being a top five team and a genuine contender.
While it is still early doors in this title race, the victor could take momentum into a busy January where both teams have a packed schedule full of tough but winnable fixtures.
Sundowns’ January DSTV Premiership fixtures
9 Jan – Baroka v Sundowns
16 Jan – SuperSport Utd v Sundowns
19 Jan – Sundowns v Bloem Celtic
23 Jan – Sundowns v Swallows
31 Jan – Chippa United v Sundowns
Pirates’ January DSTV Premiership fixtures
10 Jan – Pirates v Swallows
13 Jan – TTM v Pirates
17 Jan – Black Leopards v Pirates
20 Jan – Pirates v Golden Arrows
23 Jan – Maritzburg Utd v Pirates
30 Jan – Pirates v Kaizer Chiefs