Soweto Derby: Three Key Battles
Ahead of the Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates this weekend, we take a look at three key match-ups set to ignite in the highly-anticipated encounter.
Khama Billiat v Thembinkosi Lorch
Billiat and Lorch are the equivalent to Chiefs and Pirates what Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are to Barcelona and Juventus respectively.
Both players missed the beginning of the season, which means they have failed to have had the impact they would have wanted. But the season is still in its early stages and now that both players have worked their way back to full match fitness, it should be a mouthwatering battle.
Lorch had a fantastic 2018/2019 campaign winning the Absa Premiership Player of the Season award, while he broke in to the Bafana Bafana starting lineup and became an instant hero scoring a brilliant goal in the 1-0 Last 16 victory over hosts Egypt.
But the 26-year-old has failed to live up to his billing this season, having failed to make an assist or score a goal in seven league matches this season.
Meanwhile, Billiat has only managed one assist and one goal in his seven Absa Premiership appearances. However, the Zimbabwean appears to be thriving as a part of a new attacking trio that included Leonardo Castro and Samir Nurkovic.
If Chiefs are to break their trophy drought that extends back to the 2014/2015 season, they will need Billiat to replicate the form he showed at Mamelodi Sundowns that saw him being nominated for the African Player of the Year after helping the Brazilians to the PSL and CAF Champions League titles.
Reeve Frosler v Innocent Maela
Both sides love making use of their attacking full-backs, which means Frosler and Maela will be fighting hammer and tongs to gain the ascendancy in the wide areas.
Both players have made impressive starts to the season, with Maela even earning a call-up to the Bafana Bafana set-up for his impressive displays.
Frosler has successfully unhinged Ramahlwe Mpahlele from the starting lineup - no mean feat - and has been a creative force for the Amakhosi this season.
The 21-year-old provided a beautiful cross in to the area for Samir Nurkovic's crucial opener in the 2-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns. He has been solid defensively and a major factor in Chiefs having the joint stingiest defence in the league.
Meanwhile, Maela has taken on a more senior role in the Buccanneers rearguard this season, with experienced defenders such as Happy Jele being forced to watch from the sidelines.
Like Frosler, Maela has plenty of stamina, industry as well as creativity, flair while he does his core duty of defending with aplomb.
Indeed, Maela is highly-rated by the Bafana hierarchy, having started in the national team's most recent fixture against Mali in the Nelson Mandela Challenge last month.
Samir Nurkovic v Tshegofatso Mabasa
Goals win matches and the sides' two pre-eminent goal-getters at present will be going all out to find the back of the net and hand their side the bragging rights.
Nurkovic has proven to be a highly astute signing. The Serb striker has impressed with his ability to hold up the ball and bring his teammates in to play, while he has proven he has an eye for goal.
When Chiefs go more direct, Nurkovic offers them a route-one option with the 28-year-old more than likely to win the first ball with a flick-on and allow his teammates to feed on the scraps.
He complements Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro extremely well. While Castro stays mainly central, Nurkovic has the licence to drop deep or drift out wider. He instinctively knows where the space is and has shown that he can play a killer through ball.
Mabasa is also new at his club, having been signed from Bloemfontein Celtic in the off-season. At just 23, he has already toppled experienced Zambian duo Augustine Mulenga and Justin Shonga from the starting lineup.
Like Nurkovic, he is his side's top scorer, having netted four times in his last five appearances. While Nurkovic has a bit more of a free role, Mabasa is expected to lead the line and be the focal point.