Carling Black Label Cup: Three key battles that could decide the fate for Chiefs vs Pirates

South African football fans will once again be in for a treat this upcoming weekend, with the highly anticipated clashes of the Carling Black Label Cup set to take place. The competition comprises four teams, with AmaZulu taking on Mamelodi Sundowns, before Kaizer Chiefs clash with Orlando Pirates in the semi-finals.

Here we take a look at what could decide the fate in the Soweto derby. This past weekend Pirates won the MTN8, and had all the reasons to forget about the loss they suffered at the hands of Amakhosi in the DStv Premiership on 29 October. However, Pirates always knew that a chance for payback would come in the Carling Black Label Cup. The question is, will there be payback?

Miguel Timm vs Njabulo Blom 

These are the in-form defensive midfielders for both teams. Their presence has been felt when it comes to cleaning up the dirty work of their team-mates, protecting the defence, and denying the oppositions the spaces to play in the midfield. Their form has been evidenced by the call-ups they recently earned to the Bafana Bafana squad that will play two friendlies later this month. 

Blom had the game of his life when Chiefs beat Pirates one week ago, but Timm was suspended after accumulating four yellow cards. This now makes it interesting, as one is wondering how the 22-year-old will deal with Timm. Some will say they won’t meet often on the field, because they both play close to their defences, but whoever wins the most balls for their team, will make the biggest contribution towards their team’s chances. In addition, there will be times when they will be in direct competition in the middle of the park when competing for the ball, and that battle will go a long way in dictating the pattern of play, ball possession and who wins the game. This  will be the experience of Timm versus the hunger and energy of Blom.

This  game will probably be won in the midfield.

Chiefs’ quick attack vs Pirates’ solid defence

Pirates have proven many times how strong they are at the back, but again, if you recall their defeat in the previous Soweto derby, Chiefs exposed Pirates’ defensive lapses. Bucs couldn’t deal with the speed Amakhosi were utilising when attacking. However, will they allow that again? Jose Riveiro must be working on a solution to this, and they may have to change their high press to a deeper defensive game. But that could open up the midfield.  

Riveiro’s charges will have to make do without Nkosinathi Sibisi, who suffered a calf injury in their last match. His partner in crime, Olisa Ndah will have to pair with the captain Innocent Maela at the centre-back. The two aren’t used to playing together in the central defence. Could Chiefs exploit this?

Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly, who endured fierce criticism in the early stages of the season, came to the party when they took down the Buccaneers. Along with the in-form Kgaogelo Sekgota, they will be the main characters for Arthur Zwane to unlock Ezimnyama Ngenkani at the back.

Kermit Erasmus, Monnapule Saleng and Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo, key players for Bucs?

These were the key players for the Buccaneers in the last Soweto derby, but Chiefs rendered them ineffective . Expect Riveiro to mix it up for this game, otherwise he may be playing right into Zwane’s hands, and that would spell defeat for Pirates.

Also read:

Carling Black Label Cup: Previous winners since 2011

Chenene heaps praise on Saleng

Maela on winning MTN8 as captain

Khama Billiat chasing Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo on the ball. Photo credit- Twitter @orlandopirates