Why SuperSport are a side with genuine title credentials
When even coach Eric Tinkler is not playing down his side’s chances‚ and admitting that SuperSport United have Absa Premiership title credentials‚ then it appears to indicate that they do.
SuperSport are only seven games into the 2017-18 season‚ and have drawn their last fixture 0-0 – against Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium on Tuesday night.
But it is a combination of indicators – the strength of last month’s Confederation Cup finalists’ squad‚ Tinkler’s third-placed finish with Cape Town City last season‚ his good trophy record already in a still short career – that have pundits tipping a two-horse Pretoria race with leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
And of course‚ SuperSport’s games in hand.
They are in ninth place with four to six games less played than the teams above them except Sundowns (three ahead on 10 matches played).
Even Tuesday night’s draw‚ where again Tinkler showed an ability to tailor a gameplan to his opposition‚ pressing counterattack-minded Pirates high and missing a string of first-half chances that could have killed the game‚ indicated a team capable of challenging.
Tinkler was asked if‚ given the sluggishness of an appallingly slow start by teams in the PSL‚ he felt his side have real opportunity to be genuine title contenders by Christmas.
“Currently we are the only team who are really on target. What I mean by that is that prior to this game we had six games and 13 points‚ which is trying to average two points per game‚” Tinkler replied.
“Now we have 14 points [from seven games]‚ so we’re still there.
“And I explained to the players that if we can collect at least 14 from the available 18 points [from games in hand] we could find ourselves at Christmas being top of the league and we would still have four games in hand.
“But obviously you explain to the players the importance of tonight [against Pirates]. Because none of the games are going to be easy.
“When you’re playing Pirates‚ for coaches it’s quite easy because you know that the motivation‚ determination and work ethic will be there.
“Your worry becomes when you go to the Free State Starses and Barokas. Teams that win leagues are teams who get points against those teams.
“Personally‚ I would have preferred to get the three points tonight to try and keep that draw for later. Because the trips to the Free State and Baroka will not be easy.
“So now we know that there’s one draw gone. We can afford one more. But we need wins – and then we can find ourselves there.”
Much of whether SuperSport can push as challengers by Christmas rests in Sundowns’ hands.
The 2016 African champions are pushing hard to maximise their own games in hand‚ with three strong wins in four matches (against Bidvest Wits and Orlando Pirates away‚ and leaders Baroka 4-0 on Tuesday).
If they continue in that vein Downs will also increase the pressure on SuperSport to gain maximum points from their extra games just to stay in touch.
SuperSport’s remaining matches in 2017:
Saturday‚ December 9: vs Cape Town City (Mbombela Stadium)
Wednesday‚ December 13: vs Free State Stars (Goble Park)
Sunday‚ December 17: vs Baroka (Peter Mokaba Stadium)
Tuesday‚ December 19: vs Bloemfontein Celtic (Dr Molemela Stadium)