by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – A BLOCKBUSTER encounter between champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs is the cream of the crop in a full list of fixtures as the second half of the ABSA Premiership campaign resumes this weekend.
The Gauteng heavyweights lock horns at the FNB Stadium on Saturday at the end of a festive recess dominated by a coaching merry-go-round.
Kickoff is at 15h30, five months after the two sides opened the current league campaign with a thrilling one-all draw at the Loftus Versfeld.
Chiefs and Sundowns, the perennial title favourites, are in unfamiliar
positions in the league, placed sixth and fifth respectively after a
string of indifferent results.
They must cover a lot of ground in the pursuit of log leaders Bidvest Wits (30 points).
Sundowns have accumulated 22 points from 12 games while Chiefs, rocked by volatility this campaign, have 21 points from 15 matches.
While The Brazilians were somehow draw specialists in the first half of the campaign, with seven stalemates, Chiefs uncharacteristically fired Italian coach Giovanni Solinas and re-hired German Ernst Middendorp.
Former Sundowns crowd favourites, Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro, are likely to spearhead the Chiefs attack against their former employers.
Nomadic defenders, Mario Booysen, and fullback Ramahlwe Mphahlele could also marshal the Chiefs defence against their former club.
League actions resumes on Friday evening with unstable sides, Chippa United and Bloemfontein Celtic playing at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium. Celtic parted ways with Steve Komphela quitting as coach.
On Saturday, Bidvest Wits have a tricky encounter against Free State Stars at Goble Park.
Second-placed Orlando Pirates visit Highlands Park at the Makhulong Stadium.
SuperSport United and Cape Town City, whose rivalry is mounting, will meet at the former’s Lucas Moripe Stadium backyard.
Surprise packages, Polokwane City, sitting fourth, host vastly-improving AmaZulu at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Two derbies wrap league proceedings on Sunday.
Limpopo sides Baroka FC and Black Leopards clash at the Old Peter Mokaba as Golden Arrows and Maritzburg United, square up at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium.
Both KwaZulu-Natal sides are crisis-laden and with new coaches Steve Komphela and Muhsin Etugral respectively at the helm.
Komphela replaced Clinton Larsen at Arrows while Etugral took over from Fadlu Davids’ Maritzburg United as the two sides pulled the trigger after disappointing campaigns.
Full fixtures below:
FRIDAY, 4th JANUARY 2019
Chippa United vs Bloemfontein Celtic, Sisa Dukashe Stadium (20h00)
SATURDAY, 5th JANUARY
Polokwane City vs AmaZulu, Old Peter Mokaba Stadium (15h30)
Kaizer Chiefs vs Mamelodi Sundowns, FNB Stadium (15h30)
Free State Stars vs Bidvest Wits, Goble Park (18h00)
Highlands Park vs Orlando Pirates, Makhulong Stadium (20h15)
SuperSport United vs Cape Town City FC, Lucas Moripe Stadium (20h15)
SUNDAY, 6th JANUARY
Baroka vs Black Leopards, Peter Mokaba Stadium (15h30)
Golden Arrows vs Maritzburg United, Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium (15h30).
– CAJ News