title race a close affair

KAIZER Chiefs' recent winning streak and Santos' resistance near the top of the log could see the league title going down to the wire.

What also makes the title race more engrossing is that Mamelodi Sundowns are also collecting crucial points in the second round of the Absa Premiership campaign.

But the same could not be said about early pacesetters Orlando Pirates who have not been consistent, after drawing their last match against Mpumalanga Black Aces in midweek.

United, however, look like they are running away with the title and any slip by title-chasers could prove fatal at this time of the season. Gavin Hunt's side head the standings with 41 points from 20 matches.

Santos, Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town, who have welcomed back Nathan Paulse from Swedish side Hammarby IF, are seven points off the pace in second, third and fourth place respectively.

Though Matsatsantsa are widely tipped to defend their crown, Chiefs' industrious midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala believes the Phefeni Glamour Boys also have the gumption to wear the crown, come February 28.

Their title credentials will be tested by Bloemfontein Celtic, their visitors at Atteridge- ville's Super Stadium tomorrow. Kickoff is at 8.15pm.

Tshaba-lala is ready for a tough match against Celtic.

"We expect them to come at us from the onset after losing their match on Wednesday, but we will deal with whatever they will be throwing at us," said Tshabalala, who scored in their 3-1 win over Platinum Stars in midweek.

The Bafana Bafana linkman was speaking to Sowetan after the launch of the new Chiefs jersey to celebrate their 40th anniversary next year.

United will also be at home against tail-enders Jomo Cosmos at Loftus Stadium tomorrow.

While Ezenkosi sprung a surprise when they beat Pirates two weeks ago, in-form United are another prospect altogether.

It remains to be seen how Thapelo Tshilo and company will deal with Anthony Laffor, the two-goal hero on Wednesdaywhen United demolished Moroka Swallows 3-0.

Sundowns have what it takes to beat AmaZulu in front of their supporters when they meet at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday.

Lebohang Mokoena is a key player for the visitors, while Belux Kasonga is influential at the back for Usuthu.

Meanwhile, Maritzburg United welcome Ajax to Woodburn Stadium, also on Sunday. Both matches kick off at 3.30pm.