Manchester United
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Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns clash could be just the tonic for both sides

Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns will clash in a high-profile pre-season friendly at the FNB Stadium on Saturday, a first real sight of the two sides in local action ahead of the scheduled start of the new campaign.

Chiefs played in the Maize Cup last weekend with a mixed side over two games, but are likely to go with their strongest line-up for this fixture as they try to win back disillusioned fans under the 'new dawn' following the arrival of coach Giovanni Solinas.

It will also potentially be a first run-out for Khama Billiat against his former side and, if a draft fixture list seen by KweséESPN remains the same, a dress rehearsal for their league opener against the same opposition on August 4.  

Sundowns played in the African Champions League on Tuesday away in Togo, putting in a dismal display against week opposition, and it will be interesting to see if their limp performers from midweek are a little more fired-up for this clash.

Organisers are hoping to have around 50,000 in the stands for the game, which would represent a satisfactory total, but below the sell-out 80,000 crowd that would arrive for the Carling Black Label Champion Cup between Chiefs and Orlando Pirates that had been played annually at this time since 2011.

It was postponed for this year after two fans died in a crush at last year's event, though organisers of that competition say the incident is unrelated and they rather did not want the campaign to clash with the FIFA World Cup.

Victory would be a boost for Chiefs, even in these very early days of Solinas' tenure as they try to reverse the perception of being a club on the slide.

No trophies in three seasons is a club record barren run and the Italian coach is the surprise choice to reverse that.

There seems some confusion over whether or not he will be on the bench for the game as he waits for his work permit, as the nature of the match means he does not have to be registered with the PSL to take his place in the dug-out.

There is a saying in football that you are only as good as your last match and in the case of Chiefs fans that is especially true.

Win, lose or draw, the previous fixture is scrutinized as virtually the only basis to look at the form of the side and the mood of the supporters can be judged based on the outcome.

Sundowns were comfortable league winners last season and if Chiefs could put on a strong display and get a win, in the eyes of their fickle fans this would be a major step forward and lift the sense of gloom that hung around Naturena towards the end of the last campaign.

Sundowns do not have the same worried and for coach Pitso Mosimane it is a chance to give valuable game-time to the likes of Toni Silva, who last played a competitive fixture in November, and to see how new signing Lyle Lakay can slip into the mix.

Venezuelan forward Jose Ali Meza has been struggling with injury and is unlikely to get a run, while it could also be an opportunity for New Zealand international striker Jeremy Brockie to get a morale-boosting goal.

He has not scored since last October, a run of 26 matches for club and country, and was left on the bench in their defeat to Togo-Port on Tuesday.

The feeling with him is that one goal, even in a high-profile friendly, could open the floodgates and a return to the kind of form he displayed at SuperSport United during a prolific three-year stay with the club, where he netted 55 goals.

With their next Champions League clash at home to Togo-Port on July 29, the match could actually come at a good time for Mosimane given the lackluster display from his side in Lome.

Pre-season or not, they will be up for the challenge and that could sharpen some focus and shake some rust from his under-performing players.


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