The Nedbank Cup Round of 16 resumes on Sunday afternoon, with two David versus Goliath clashes on offer.
In the pick of the afternoon’s action KwaZulu-Natal will be treated to another exciting Derby as the high-flying Maritzburg United take on Royal Eagles at the Princess Magogo Stadium. The game promises to be a tight but exciting affair as this will be the very first time that the two sides lock horns in a competitive match.
Eagles certainly have their work cut out as Maritzburg are arguably one of the Premier Soccer league’s (PSL) form teams. The Team of Choice are currently undefeated in their last four encounters in all competitions which does signal an ominous task for Eagles.
However, with the National First Division (NFD) outfit likely to miss out on a playoff place this season as they find themselves 11th place on the NFD log, the lucrative knockout tournament may seem like an attractive prospect to salvage something positive of what has been a rather dismal campaign.
But Eagles’ woes seem to be continuing as they will have to compete against Maritzburg without the services of top scorer Boikanyo Komane. The attacker has five goals to his name in the NFD, and will surely be missed.
It is not all doom and gloom though for the Eagles who despite conceding a sensational 38 goals this season in the league, have scored a whopping 36. But it is that defensive performance that will have coach Fadlu Davids’ men licking their lips. Maritzburg have been playing a free-flowing brand of football this season, where they have scored 27 goals, and although they will be without Andrea Fileccia who was instrumental in their progression into the Last 16 but will miss the clash through suspension, with the likes of Mohau Mokate, Lebohang Maboe and Deolin Mekoa amongst the attack Maritzburg still have adequate firepower.
Nonetheless, to reach this stage of the tournament, Eagles have had to overcome minnows Happy Wanderers, making the clash against Maritzburg their first real test of the tournament, and It could be a real baptism of fire as Eagles cannot take their eye off the ball especially in the last 15 minutes as Maritzburg have scored close to 40% of their goals in that time.
Meanwhile, in the day’s only other game, Bloemfontein Celtic will welcome Richards Bay to the Free State province. The clash is set to be an intriguing affair as both sides go into the game on the back of a recent spell of indifferent results.
But the Nedbank Cup offers both teams an opportunity to make something of their season. Celtic in particular will favour their chances knowing that in the Round of 32 they eliminated the defending champions SuperSport United.
Once again coach Veselin Jelusic will rely on the likes of creative mastermind Deon Hotto and Ndumiso Mabena to contribute to the cause alongside the club’s leading goal scorer Victor Letsoalo. But most notably it is at the back where Celtic will feel a massive void as experienced goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb is set to sit out the encounter through suspension. This could be a real worry as Celtic’s defence has leaked 26 goals this season.
Nevertheless, Richards Bay will hope to turn their fortunes around as they have not experienced the best of seasons. They are currently in 13th place in the league standings and have conceded 27 goals which could mean that fans could be in for a thrilling encounter.