Fi­nal round: ev­ery­thing to play for

The Absa Premier­ship has de­liv­ered yet an­other ac­tion-packed sea­son, filled with in­ter­est­ing twists and turns along the way, writes Ti­mothy Molobi

CityPress - - Sport -

And so it comes down to Satur­day. On the fi­nal day of the 2015/16 Absa Premier­ship sea­son there is a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle to be won, a CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup berth up for grabs and a top goal scorer to con­tend with. Af­ter al­most 10 months of thrilling foot­ball, the league sea­son will cul­mi­nate this Satur­day on what is ex­pected to be a drama-filled fi­nal day.

While the ti­tle race has al­ready been set­tled, with Mamelodi Sun­downs con­firmed as cham­pi­ons, it is at the other end of the ta­ble that drama is ex­pected. CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion spot With the two CAF Cham­pi­ons League slots al­ready taken by cham­pi­ons Sun­downs and run­ners-up Bidvest Wits, the race is for one spot in the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup. The other spot will be taken by the win­ners of the Ned­bank Cup.

Three sides – Plat­inum Stars, Kaizer Chiefs and Mpumalanga Black Aces – go into the last round still with a chance of tak­ing the re­main­ing spot. But the lat­ter two might feel hard done by as third-placed Stars will play a fa­tigued Sun­downs on Satur­day.

Sun­downs will only ar­rive on Fri­day morn­ing from their sec­ond-leg tie against Medeama in Takadi, Ghana, on Wed­nes­day.

Sun­downs chief ex­ec­u­tive Sizwe Nz­i­mande said they had asked for their game against Stars to be post­poned as it was only 48 hours af­ter their CAF game. How­ever, the league re­jected their plea.

“Takadi is about three hours’ drive by bus from Accra. Imag­ine, our play­ers will have to travel by bus and fly overnight with­out any proper sleep and still play on Satur­day. This is not an ideal sit­u­a­tion for us and other clubs too as they still have some­thing to play for. We don’t want to be ac­cused of play­ing a weak­ened team against Stars but it is what it is. We are try­ing Kenya Air­ways be­cause there was an is­sue with seats on SAA but at any rate we will only land on Fri­day morn­ing,” said Nz­i­mande.

Sun­downs will be handed the tro­phy and medals af­ter Satur­day’s game and Nz­i­mande said they wanted to make it a mem­o­rable day for their sup­port­ers. Top eight bat­tle Four more clubs are play­ing for a place in next sea­son’s MTN8 tour­na­ment. Sixth-placed Chippa United need only a point against Chiefs to ce­ment their place.

But any of Or­lando Pi­rates and Golden Ar­rows could miss out if they fail to win their games. In fact, ninth­placed Su­perS­port United would have to beat Pi­rates in or­der to un­seat them from the sev­enth spot when the two sides meet at Or­lando Sta­dium.

United are just one point be­hind Pi­rates and Ar­rows, who visit rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria.

Stu­art Bax­ter’s man­date when he joined Su­perS­port was to qual­ify for the top-eight com­pe­ti­tion and he knows only a vic­tory will guar­an­tee that. Rel­e­ga­tion dog fight The ques­tion is: Are we headed for more twists and turns in the race to avoid the drop to the Na­tional First Di­vi­sion on the fi­nal day? The rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle is go­ing Kaizer Chiefs vs Chippa United (FNB Sta­dium) Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria vs Golden Ar­rows (Tuks Sta­dium) Or­lando Pi­rates vs Su­perS­port United (Or­lando Sta­dium) Mamelodi Sun­downs vs Plat­inum Stars (Lu­cas Moripe Sta­dium) Ajax Cape Town vs Bidvest Wits (Cape Town Sta­dium) Jomo Cos­mos vs Mar­itzburg United (Olen Park) Bloem­fontein Celtic vs Polok­wane City (Dr Molemela Sta­dium) Mpumalanga Black Aces vs Free State Stars (Mbombela Sta­dium) Cham­pi­ons – R10 mil­lion + CAF Cham­pi­ons League Run­ners-up – R5 mil­lion + CAF Cham­pi­ons League 3rd – R3 mil­lion + CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup 4th – R2 mil­lion 5th – R1.5 mil­lion 6th – R1.3 mil­lion 7th – R1.1 mil­lion 8th – R1 mil­lion 9th – R750 000 10th – R700 000 11th – R650 000 12th – R600 000 13th – R550 000 14th – R500 000 15th – R450 000 (na­tional play-offs) 16th – R400 000 (rel­e­gated) to the wire as it is a win or bust for all three of the con­tenders.

The race for au­to­matic drop is be­tween Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, Mar­itzburg United and Jomo Cos­mos.

It will be win­ner takes all when Cos­mos host Mar­itzburg at Olen Park. A vic­tory for ei­ther side will guar­an­tee them a place in the league next sea­son. In fact, a point would do for Cos­mos.

Bot­tom-of-the-log AmaTuks are at home to Ar­rows, who are fight­ing for a spot in the top eight. Golden Boot Collins Mbe­suma’s 14-goal tally is at risk go­ing into the last round as Prince Nx­u­malo is just a goal adrift.

Polok­wane City’s Thobani Mncwango is on 12 and should also fancy his chances of over­tak­ing the burly Zam­bian and claim the top-scorer award.

Khama Bil­liat and Jeremy Brockie, who are on 11 goals, would need to score a hat-trick each to catch Mbe­suma and hope the Aces striker does not score against Free State Stars.

PHOTO: SYD­NEY MAHLANGU / BACKPAGEPIX

TOUGH TIMES Jomo Sono will have to beat Mar­itzburg in the last game of the sea­son

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