By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi’s international Gabadinho Mhango is amongst four players who have been high rated as players to watch in Saturday’s showdown between arch rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in what is the biggest Soweto derby.
The Absa Premiership match, that kick-off at 3:30pm CAT at FNB Stadium, is being touted as one of the best in recent memory and the other three players mentioned as players to watch are Pirates’ Wayne Sandilands and Chiefs’ Samir Nurkovic and Eric
SuperSport.com reports: “The Malawi international has scored an incredible 12 goals in his last 11 league games to take his goal tally up to 15 in 20 matches across all competitions this season.
“Mhango’s form has been directly responsible for Pirates’ rise up the league standings and if he can keep finding the back of the net, there is no reason why the club can’t consider themselves genuine contenders for the league title.”
Pirates goalkeeper Sandilands is being favored to start ahead of Daniel Akpeyi and Itumeleng Khune.
“There is no doubt that Sandilands should be the man in goal for the Buccaneers this weekend,” the report says.
“The experienced shot-stopper almost single-handedly won all three points for his club away to Black Leopards and will be hoping to replicate that form this weekend.”
The report says Kaizer Chiefs’ Samir Nurkovic has scored three goals in his last four games and is Amakhosi’s key man in front of goal.
“The Serbian has struck up a superb relationship with Lebogang Manyama and the duo will be hoping to link up once more as Chiefs aim to extend their lead atop the league standings.
“Nurkovic’s work rate is unmatched and is sure to cause the Pirates defence problems, while he has proved that he can finish with both feet and with his head.
On Eric Mathoho, SuperSport.com says: “It should come as no surprise that Mathoho’s return to form has had a direct impact on Chiefs’ success this season.
“The towering defender is key to the club’s cause, while he also poses a genuine threat at the other end of the pitch. Coming up against a skillful Pirates attack, the pressure will be on Mathoho to keep things steady in what promises to be a fiery derby showdown.
The report says the two South African giants head into the clash occupying the first and third places on the league standings respectively, and while Chiefs hold the advantage, victory for Pirates will see them move within just three points of the league leaders.
Pirates racked up a sixth successive league win when a late own goal secured a 1-0 victory away to Black Leopards on 16 February.
The Buccaneers also boast an unbeaten home record this season, with seven wins and three draws giving them a haul of 24 points from a possible 30 so far in 2019-20 campaign.
Gabadinho’s coach Josef Zinnbauer has had an immediate impact in Orlando and will be hoping his team can keep their cool, and continue their climb up the log standings with victory over their fiercest rivals.
“Are my preparations different for the Soweto Derby? No, but for the players, this is special. We see this from the training sessions. They are very hot; they are hungry,” Zinnbauer is quoted as saying.
“I say, ‘Stop now, training is finished.’ But they say, ‘No, no, coach, we want to play more — give us a free-kick or give us a corner, or whatever…’
“They have a special feeling; they are focussed on the Derby, but we have to focus on the next game and for us, as coaches, it’s only the game that’s important.
“But I know it’s a special game for me too, but you don’t get more points than any other game, yeah? You have a chance for three points and not more.”
While Pirates officials and players have ruled themselves out of the title race, SuperSport.com talks of Chiefs head coach Ernst Middendorp as saying he was not about to buy into Zinnbauer claims.
“I don’t fall into this trap, I have heard it, that Kaizer Chiefs want the title and Pirates don’t. I haven’t heard more nonsense than this in the last few days!” Middendorp is quoted as saying.
“No one said eight weeks ago we have a chance of the title, now all guys say ‘you have a chance for the title’ — no we have a chance for three points.’
“I am the last to say we don’t want the title, all the players want the title, I want the title if and when we have the chance, we take the chance,” he concluded.
When the teams met earlier this season, at the FNB Stadium in November 2019, Chiefs claimed a 3-2 home win thanks to an own goal from Ntsikelelo Nyauza, a goal from Leonardo Castro and a late penalty from Daniel Cardoso.