Ajax Cape Town hope to bring high-flying Mamelodi Sundowns down to earth when the sides clash at Athlone Stadium on Friday night, December 17. kick-off at 8pm.
The Urban Warriors have a big incentive to secure maximum points – they are second on the log at present and a win will cut Downs’ lead to just one point.
Potentially, this is a huge match for Ajax – for a team that’s been there or there-abouts in the league for several seasons and have had numerous successes in cup competitions, victory over Sundowns would ensure the Cape side firmly throw their hat into the title chase.
Granted, its early days yet in the league, but a win for Ajax could provide a massive psychological boost.
Both teams go into the match on the back of victories – the Pretoria side burst Golden Arrows’ bubble with a 3-1 win, Lebohang Mokoena making the difference with a brace.
Ajax meanwhile showed their mettle away from home, overcoming Black Aces 2-0, thanks to a Terror Fanteni goal and a Brett Evans penalty.
Ajax coach Foppe de Haan will be glad Fanteni returned to scoring ways in time for this big clash – the Paarl-born marksman together with Thulani Serero will be the main attacking threats for Ajax
The Cape Town side could be facing two of their former stars – both Mabuthi Khenyeza and Franklyn Cale featured against Arrows last weekend.
Both sides are expected to have full strength squads available – neither have any injuries or suspensions, and Sundowns also have Sibusiso Khumalo back in the frame, the exciting former Moroka Swallows left-sider made an appearance off the bench against Arrows.
De Haan believes that his side are continuing to improve with every outing and feels that if they play with purpose against ‘Downs, three points can become a reality.
“It is key that we take our scoring chances. In matches like these you may only get three of four opportunities, so we need to be ready to take our chances – the team that takes their chances will walk away winners.
“We are improving with every game and have scored five goals in our last two matches
De Haan also says that concentration in defence will be vital, and while conceding that the likes of Cale, Khenyeza and Mathew Pattison will provide threats, he hopes to limit their impact by getting his Ajax players to close spaces down quickly, which shouldn’t be a problem in a young energetic side.
Sundowns jetted into Cape Town on Wednesday already, enduring a bumpy flight down to the Cape as they looked to acclimatise in time for Friday night.
They’ll be hoping for a smoother ride at Athlone, but are bracing themselves for an Ajax onslaught.
“Ajax are going to be a big test for us,” said captain Esrom Nyandoro, “because they are a good young side who play exciting soccer, and they will want to keep us in touching distance at the top of the log.
“But last week we showed we are capable of beating the teams closest to us on the log when we beat Arrows. “We know Ajax will come out fighting; their young players will work hard to close us down and of course they can play themselves. But we have players who can change a game and we just have to keep patient and keep our shape and then we can look forward to a good result.”
Sundowns are chasing a record sixth Premiership title.
There’s little to choose between the sides historically – last year Ajax won in Pretoria and Sundowns won in Cape Town, and the overall league record sees the Urban Warriors leading the Brazilians by eight victories to seven.
The rest of the Absa Premiership matches this weekend are:
Friday, December 17: Maritzburg United v Free State Stars (Harry Gwala, 8pm)
Saturday, December 18: Moroka Swallows v Orlando Pirates (Dobsonville), Platinum Stars v Santos (Royal Bafokeng), SuperSport United v Golden Arrows (Lucas Moripe) and Kaizer Chiefs v BidVest Wits University (Peter Mokaba, 8pm)
Sunday, December 19: Bloemfontein Celtic v Vasco da Gama (Seisa Ramabodu) and AmaZulu v Mpumalanga Black Aces (Princess Magogo). All mathes kick-off is at 3.30pm, unless stated.-Backpagepix