Mamelodi Sundowns ran away with the Premier Soccer League title last season, winning the championship by 71 points, opening a 14-point gap in the process, but their rival coach insists that their neighbours will not repeat that feat.
“I don’t think there will be a runaway team this year. I think there are too many teams with too much to prove this season,” says SuperSport United’s two-time Premier Soccer League winning coach Stuart Baxter.
With the introduction of Baroka FC and Highlands Park this season, who were both promoted from the National First Division, and the league’s newest franchise in Cape Town City, Baxter reckons that this season will be a tougher affair than usual.
“There are a lot of teams that we’re looking forward to this season. You’ve got Orlando Pirates who have a new coach, and they’ve strengthened the team. Sundowns have done everything they’ve done, and of course they’ve strengthened the team. You’ve got Kaizer Chiefs who really want to get back into it, so I think there are a lot of clubs that have got a lot to prove, and therefore I don’t think it will be a one team show, I think,” said the former Chiefs coach.
“What you know from experience in all the leagues in the world is that one team that’s tipped [to win the league] is going to be a disappointment, and one of the teams that’s not tipped, is going to surprise everybody … it happens every season, and I think that this year the top teams are going to beat each other quite a lot. Whether we are one of those top teams, we don’t know,” he added.
Baxter alluded to “bread-and-butter” games, describing these as opponents that should not be difficult to beat.
“When I say the bread and butter games are those that you look at and realistically, you’ve got a chance of winning. If we’re playing Sundowns, then that’s a derby and it’s against the team that just ran away with the league last year, then you don’t look at that as ‘that’s one you should win’ – that’s the one we want to win, and that’s the one we could win.
“But when you’re playing a team that’s more on your level, you say ‘okay, we’ve got a chance of winning this one’. I think the defining moment will be the ones who win games that they should win, and they will win the league this year,” he said.