Silly season is over, now it’s the real deal

Silly season is over, now it’s the real deal

Pre-season is a frustrating time for the fans. Will your team make all the signings they need? (as a general rule, they never do enough to sate a supporter’s appetite).

Will the players already in your team avoid serious injury? And then there’s the lack of actual football, especially in a year like this, with no World Cup or even European Championship.

Sorry, but the Fifa Confederations Cup just doesn’t cut it. And neither do these pre-season matches, where coaches are often trying out tactics, and where the amount of hype around results far outweighs their actual meaning.

So it is with some relief, as well as excitement that Premier Soccer League fans can anticipate the start of the season this weekend, with the 2017/18 campaign kicking off with the MTN8 quarterfinals. The real stuff gets underway with the reigning MTN8 and league champions in action on Friday night at home to Golden Arrows.

Wits have to be favourites to defend the MTN8 they won in such style last year, particularly with the reinforcements they have brought in.

It is their fans’ appetites that must have been most sated in the transfer window so far, with the likes of Steven Pienaar and Daylon Claasen coming into an already powerful squad. I find it hard to see past Wits and Sundowns again, frankly as the main contenders for both the MTN8 and, more importantly, the league title.

We speak to Daylon Claasen in our one-on-one on Page 9 about the campaign ahead – he is looking forward to playing in South Africa after a long time in Europe.

Sundowns have not done too much in the transfer market, but it will be a coup for them if they can hang on to Khama Billiat. Brazilians coach Pitso Mosimane’s main task here could be to keep motivated a player who clearly seems to have wanted a move away from the club.

Sundowns have also reinforced their goalkeeping department with Ghanaian Razak Brimah and are set to add Oupa Manyisa to their squad from Orlando Pirates. There has been some debate over whether Manyisa, nearing the end of his career, is a sensible buy for Sundowns, but it seems to me he is the perfect replacement for the departed Teko Modise. Manyisa himself may just benefit too from a move away from Pirates.

The only doubt I have over Sundowns challenging for domestic honours is that they are again involved in the latter stages of the Caf Champions League. More success there and another trip to the Fifa Club World Cup could leave them way behind in the league programme – like last season. The Sundowns coach, mind you, would probably take another Champions League title over PSL glory.

As for Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, I can actually only see them falling further behind, as neither has reinforced enough in the off-season. Pirates are in a far worse state than Chiefs, and we look in this week’s Phakaaathi at what new coach Milutin Sredojevic needs to do to steady a sinking ship.

We also have the latest from the Bafana camp, as they prepare for their Chan qualifier against Zambia. It’s strange that Bafana are playing on the same weekend as the PSL starts, and it is hardly surprising that they have had so many squad withdrawals.

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