Both teams won their respective Telkom semi-finals on the weekend to set up the final the sponsors would have dreamt of between Sundowns, the richest and strongest line-up in the country, and giants Chiefs, the best-supported.
Not that tonight’s PSL game will be any less competitive than the Cup final. Sundowns, in fourth place, are well-poised to begin their Championship push. Chiefs will be mildly concerned at their mediocre start in the PSL race, and need a victory to buck up their 11th position.
Then there is also the psychological advantage to be gained going into the Cup final.
Of the two sides in the Telkom semis this past weekend, Chiefs were the slightly more convincing in their 1-0 victory over tough Bloemfontein Celtic. Like Chiefs, Sundowns were made to struggle against Free State Stars to run out 2-1 winners.
Both sides’ goalkeepers were instrumental in their victories and bright prospect Itumeleng Khune at Chiefs, the natural successor to ex-Amakhosi minder Brian Baloyi, who is now on form for Sundowns, could both be influential tonight.
Sundowns may not have dispatched of Stars in convincing fashion, but the League champions did show the class to grind out a win for yet another final following their Absa Cup defeat against Ajax Cape Town in April, and SAA Supa 8 win over Orlando Pirates in September.
Sundowns are still without star forward Surprise Moriri, while left midfielder Dillon Sheppard, who broke his leg in an horrific clash with Stars defender James Matola on Sunday, will be out of action for up to nine months.
Chiefs are missing two key injured players, winger David Mathebula and defender Jonathan Quartey, as well as suspended Tinashe Nengomasha.
Siphiwe Tshabalala was to undergo a late fitness test.
Former Bafana Bafana coach Ted Dumitru picks Sundowns as hot favorite to win tonight’s clash.
Dumitru, who had coaching stints with both teams since arriving in South Africa many years ago, said his main concern for Chiefs is their defence and adds that the experience of Sundowns’ players will win the game for Gordon Igesund.
“I am worried about Chiefs’ defence in their last few games and had it not been for young Khune, they would have conceded far more goals. Forget about injuries in their camp, both teams have a pool of strong players to draw from.”
Former Sundowns assistant coach Farouk Khan, who also had a coaching stint at Chiefs, predicts a draw and he too adds that Baloyi and Khune as likely to steal the show.
“It’s really very difficult to call, especially with both teams blowing hot and cold in the League. The team that makes mistakes is going to be punished.
“I’m happy to see that Khune is doing a good job at Chiefs as I am the one who promoted him to the first team. I believe he is ready to play for Bafana.
“I’m also expecting to see both Lerato Chabangu and Kaizer Jnr shining tonight as they still have not hit the form that I expected from them this season.”