Chiefs, Downs aim to kick-off 2019 in style

The first true heavyweight Absa Premiership battle of the New Year sees Kaizer Chiefs host Mamelodi Sundowns at FNB Stadium in Soweto on Saturday afternoon.

Kick-off at 3:30pm CAT.

Chiefs will be looking to pick up where they left off in 2018, having beaten SuperSport United 1-0 at home in their final league match of the year.

The Amakhosi have claimed 11 points from seven home matches this season. As hosts, they have lost matches to Bidvest Wits and Polokwane City in the 2018/19 season.

Sundowns maintained their record as the only unbeaten team in the league this season – but played to a seventh draw in the space of 12 matches – when they were held 0-0 at home by Baroka FC last month.

The Brazilians have claimed 14 points from six away matches this season, with their last result on the road a 2-1 win at Tshwane rivals SuperSport United in early December.

When the teams met earlier this season in Tshwane they played to a 1-1 draw, with goals from Ricardo Nascimento and Ramahlwe Mphahlele resulting in a share of the spoils. The Amakhosi are unbeaten in their last four league matches against the Brazilians.

Most Recent Absa Premiership Starting XI

Kaizer Chiefs: Vries, Moleko, Booysen, Cardoso, Walusimbi, Maluleka, Ntshangase (Mahlasela 46'), Zulu (Zuma 90+4'), Manyama, Billiat, Castro (Parker 61').

Mamelodi Sundowns: Mweene; Morena, Arendse, Madisha, Lakay, Kekana, Jali, Maboe, Ngoma (Mahlambi 55'), Sirino (Silva 80'), Brockie.

What They Said:

Kaizer Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp

“It’s always a pleasure to have competitive games against coaches like Pitso [Mosimane],” said Middendorp.

“He has ideas, I have ideas. He’s been in this business long enough to know how to approach these types of games.”

Kaizer Chiefs attacker Lebogang Manayama

“Right now, we’re in a good phase. The confidence levels are high, the energy levels are high.

“We’re taking it one game at a time and improving with every training session. We need to get the team back to where it belongs.”

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane

“We need to catch up. We need to try and win [at FNB Stadium],” said Mosimane.

“It’s not easy to go to FNB with a new coach. Okay, we don’t lose to be honest at FNB, but also we don’t win easily.

“Coach Middendorp is a tough, top disciplinarian. I could read one or two comments. I am following a bit. They players are having it different.”

Key Players

Kaizer Chiefs

Khama Billiat: The former Brazilians attacker will be eager to impress against his former employers as the Amakhosi aim to continue their resurgence under Ernst Middendorp. With four goals and four assists in the league this season, Billiat is Chiefs’ main attacking threat and arguably the best player in the league – something he will be aiming to prove once more against the reigning league champions.

Virgil Vries: With Itumeleng Khune set to face a spell on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury, all eyes will be on his deputy. Against a Sundowns side that boast arguably the best attacking unit in the league, the Namibia international could be in for a busy afternoon as he aim to prove his worth.

Mamelodi Sundowns

Gaston Sirino: The Uruguayan has gone a long way in filling the void left by Khama Billiat alongside the likes of Lebohang Maboe who has also impressed. Mosimane will be looking to his attacking wizard to turn on the style in Soweto as Sundowns aim to reel in league leaders Bidvest Wits.

Thapelo Morena: Key to how Sundowns play is the attacking quality of their fullbacks. In Morena, the Brazilians boast the quickest right-back in the country and a player that forms an integral part to how they break down the tightest of defensive units.