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Absa Premiership midweek preview: Baroka face a test of their mettle


Letladi Madubanya of Baroka FC is challenged by Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Baroka FC on 10 May 2017 at Lucas Moripe Stadium © Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Tuesday Nov 21, 2017. 11:00


Surprise Absa Premiership leaders Baroka FC will face a test of their mettle when they battle Cape Town City tonight in the first of seven midweek league fixtures in South Africa.

Baroka have been the surprise package of the top fight thus far, holding a two-point lead at the head of the table over a chasing pack of three clubs: Golden Arrows, Cape Town City and Bloemfontein Celtic.

Benni McCarthy’s City will view the chance to leapfrog to the top of the log – temporarily at least – as all the motivation they need to build on the 1-0 win they claimed over Free State Stars prior to the international break.

The pick of Tuesday’s matches sees Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns – the two teams which battled for the title last season – looking to revive their respective campaigns.

While the Clever Boys have won just two of nine league matches, ‘Downs have seen less action due to their African commitments earlier in the season and at least know that winning all of their games in hand would propel them to the top of the log. In further bad news for hosts Wits, the Brazilians have a 100 percent away record this season.

Tuesday’s action is wrapped up by Orlando Pirates hosting Golden Arrows. The Buccaneers have yet to really get out of second gear this season, but coach Milutin Sredojevic will hope the visit of one of the league’s top-ranked teams brings the best out of his charges.

Moving onto Wednesday, the focus will fall on Kaizer Chiefs, who have a potentially tricky game away to AmaZulu. The Soweto giants suffered a dispiriting loss in the semifinals of the Telkom Knockout this past weekend and are in need of a lift against Usuthu.

TKO finalists Bloemfontein Celtic will look to keep up their momentum when they face bottom-of-the-log Platinum Stars away, Free State Stars will welcome Chippa United to Bethlehem for an early kick-off, and the meeting of Maritzburg United and Polokwane City sees two teams looking to rise back into the middle region of the log after slumps in their respective form.

The scheduled match between SuperSport United and Ajax Cape Town was postponed due to the former’s participation in the ongoing CAF Confederation Cup final.

Absa Premiership midweek fixtures

All times 19h30 CAT unless otherwise stated

Tuesday 21 November

Cape Town City v Baroka FC – 18h00 CAT

Bidvest Wits v Mamelodi Sundowns

Orlando Pirates v Golden Arrows

Wednesday 22 November

Free State Stars v Chippa United – 18h00 CAT

Platinum Stars v Bloemfontein Celtic

AmaZulu v Kaizer Chiefs

Polokwane City v Maritzburg United



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Nigeria’s William Troost Ekong unfazed by Argentina test – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa


Eagles defender William Troost-Ekong

by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Tuesday Nov 14, 2017. 13:30


Nigerian defender William Troost-Ekong has issued a warning to the Argentine national squad ahead of their international friendly on Tuesday.

Ekong is on loan from Gent of Belgium at the Turkish club Bursaspor and says facing the Albiceleste would accord the Nigerian squad a huge opportunity to show what they are made of.

The clash comes after the Super Eagles clinched a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup unbeaten in a group tagged the Group of Death

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: JOHN OBI MIKEL – NIGERIA SKIPPER READY FOR ARGENTINA CLASH

The 24-year-old defender opted to represent Nigeria at senior level in 2015 and the ex-Tottenham Hotspur youth team player has 15 caps. He has also been shortlisted for the 2017 African Player of the Year Award.

“I am not scared to play against any team. But, of course, we hope for a favourable draw. We have to believe in ourselves just like we did in the qualifying campaign,” said the defender.

“Many doubted us winning a group with Cameroon and Algeria, and look where that got us! The experience garnered playing for the Super Eagles has been life-changing for me.

“Facing some of the best forwards in Africa, whilst having to perform and deliver for such a football-loving nation like Nigeria is a pressure that improves you as a player.

“I enjoy being with the team and working with quality players. Playing alongside someone like Leon Balogun with his quality has definitely helped, but I would feel just comfortable playing next to anyone now.”



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Sadio Mane looking forward to World Cup qualifying test against South Africa – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa


Sadio Mane of Senegal celebrates a goal Franceville Stadium, Gabon Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Monday Nov 06, 2017. 17:30


Senegal and Liverpool star, Sadio Mane has expressed happiness after making his comeback for the Reds in the English Premier League last weekend.

Mane also said he is ready to face South Africa in their upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier away on November 10 and and at home four days later.

The 25-year-old suffered a hamstring injury while playing for the Lions of Teranga on October 7 and only made his return in Liverpool‘s 4-1 victory over West Ham on Saturday.

Although Senegal lost 2-1 to Bafana Bafana last year, FIFA ordered the match to be replayed after finding Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey guilty of match manipulation.

Coach Aliou Cisse and his troops now need two points from their remaining two qualifying matches to secure a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia.

2018 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS: GROUP A HEAD-TO-HEADS

“I am very happy to be back because it was not easy,” Mane told BBC Sport.

“There’s no excuse for me now – I was injured but I was always working hard.”

“It’s going to be tough because we know how South Africa is, even when they are not in good form.

“We respect them but we also know we have quality and we have a great team and I think we can do it.

“Everybody knows what it means for the country – especially the fans – and I think it will be a dream for us and hopefully God will help us to qualify.

“Every player would love to play until the end of the season without injury. It’s part of football so we accept it and move forward.”



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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Eric Bailly – Ivorian defender faces Blues test – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa


Manchester United‘s Eric Bailly

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday Nov 03, 2017. 19:00


Eric Bailly and Manchester United will be given a stern test of their mettle this weekend when they face Premier League champions Chelsea.

The Blues will host the Red Devils at Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening, kick-off at 18h30 CAT.

Bailly has returned to the United starting XI this past week after a lengthy absence, helping the team record wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Benfica in the Premier League and Champions League respectively.

The presence of the Elephants defender has helped stabilise the backline, with his pace and anticipation particularly prevalent.

Yet the long spell out of the team has had its effects on Bailly’s fitness, with the 23-year-old notably struggling with fatigue in the midweek clash against Benfica.

He will have had almost four days of rest before the Chelsea match and, barring any injuries picked up in training, is likely to start on Sunday evening.

United defeated Chelsea 2-0 when the teams last met back in April, but they have a poor record at Stamford Bridge in recent years, failing to win an away league clash against the Blues since October 2012.



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Al Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry unfazed by Wydad test in Champions League final – 2017 CAF Champions League


by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Friday Nov 03, 2017. 12:30


Al Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry insists they have been through tough situations before as they prepare to face Wydad Casablanca in the second leg of their CAF Champions League final on Saturday.

El Badry will want to bag the continental trophy as he also led the Red Devils to glory in 2012 and he remains upbeat ahead of the clash.

The over 60 000 capacity Mohamed V Complex in Casablanca will be the venue for the second leg final after both sides settled for a 1-1 draw last weekend in Alexandria.

MAHMOUD ABDEL-RAZIK GETS FIRST EGYPT CALL-UP SINCE 2014

“We have passed this situation many times in the past. We know what the stakes are,” El Badry told reporters.

“We will give all it takes to win this title, and I’m positive my boys can do it.”

Both sides will be without some key players through injury for the decisive match, with Wydad’s talented winger Mohamed Ounajem having a strained his thigh during the first leg.

On the other hand, Ahly duo of Tunisian left back Ali Maaloul and midfielder Hossam Ashour are also out with groin injuries.

The winner will walk away with a cash reward of 2,500,000 US Dollars and a ticket to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in December in Abu Dhabi.



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Eric Bailly, Phil Jones face major test


Manchester United’s Eric Bailly

by
Graeme Jackson

Saturday Oct 14, 2017. 09:00


Former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister reckons Ivorian Eric Bailly and centre-back partner Phil Jones will face a major test in their match at Liverpool later today.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a strong start to the 2017/18 season, but have yet to face a testing opponent. That is set to change early this afternoon when they come up against Jurgen Klopp’s side at Anfield.

Bailly and Jones have generally been the preferred centre-back pairing for manager Jose Mourinho and they are expected to anchor the defence against the Reds, where they have to be in top form, according to Pallister.

“There were big question marks over Phil Jones over the last couple of years with injuries and his form and I think he has come back to his critics with his form this year,” Pallister told betsafe.com.

“He has been one of our best players at the start of this season, it is terrific to he him recapture his form from when he came to Old Trafford.

“Bailly loves to defend and maybe even a mould of [Nemanja] Vidic or a Steve Bruce, he is aggressive.

“He loves to defend and if I was a centre-half then I would love to play with a guy like him so I think defensively we have been pretty sound.

“We are scoring goals quite freely but we have not had a massive test, we expected more from Everton.

“Liverpool is a massive test for this team, we no doubt look a better team than we did but this is a different level.”

Kick-off in the Liverpool-United match will be at 13h30 CAT.



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Chiefs​ ​to​ ​test​ ​Baroka’s​ ​unbeaten​ ​status – ABSA Premiership 2017/18


Siphiwe Tshabalala of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership 2016/17 Kaizer Chiefs and Baroka FC at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban South Africa on 02 Nomvember 2016 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday Sep 29, 2017. 12:00


Kaizer Chiefs will look to become the first team to beat Baroka FC in the Absa Premiership this season when the teams meet at Moses Mabhida Stadium on 30 September 2017, kick-off at 18h00.

Chiefs have gone unbeaten in their last four league matches, playing to a goalless draw at home to Golden Arrows on September 23. The Soweto side has picked up eight points from the last 12 up for grabs to drag themselves back toward the upper reaches of the log table.

The Amakhosi have yet to win a home league match this season, as their draw with Arrows last weekend was preceded by a stalemate against Bidvest Wits earlier this month and a loss to SuperSport United in August.

Baroka retained their unbeaten start to the season when they were held 2-2 at home by Ajax Cape Town on September 23. The Limpopo side twice had to fight back from a goal down to ensure they shared the spoils with the Urban Warriors.

Bakgaga have performed strongly away from home so far this season, picking up seven points from a possible nine. Their last match on the road was an impressive 2-0 win at Bloemfontein Celtic earlier this month.

In head-to-head stats, Chiefs and Baroka have met in just two previous league matches. Both of those encounters took place last season, with the first match in Soweto ending in a goalless stalemate, before the return game in Polokwane produced an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Chiefs’ line-up from their 0-0 draw with Arrows on September 23: Khune, Moleko, Mathoho, Cardoso, Zulu, Katsande, Malope (Meyiwa 57’), Jayiya (Twala 46’[Chirambadare 87’]), Ekstein, Tshabalala, Paez.

Baroka’ line-up from their 2-2 draw with Ajax on September 23: Vries, Shaku, Matloga (Kgaswane 61′), Ntshangase, Banda, Moeti, Masenamela, Mothupa, Madubanya, Mdantsane, Nguzana (Macha 37′).



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