SOCCER NEWS - All six sides battling to avoid relegation at the foot of the DStv Premiership table are in midweek action on Tuesday and Wednesday in what could be another crucial set of fixtures to determine who will be in the GladAfrica Championship next season.
Here is a quick guide to the seven games to be played.
STELLENBOSCH FC V ORLANDO PIRATES
Orlando Pirates will still harbour hopes of a top three finish, but they likely have to win four of their last five games to even stand a chance, starting with this clash away at Stellenbosch.
The Winelands club have slipped inexplicably towards the drop zone and are now just a point above the relegation play-off position, having taken only four points from the last 24 available.
It is a mystery why such a talented squad has struggled in recent months, but they need to pull themselves out of the mire with a difficult run-in that includes away trips to high-flying Swallows and Lamontville Golden Arrows.
The team has particularly battled at home, and are without a win on their own patch since the start of January (D4 L5), which has certainly contributed to their spiral down the table.
Pirates have also been iffy on the road with two wins in their last seven away trips in the league (D2 L3).
The four previous meetings between the sides have finished with two Pirates wins, one for Stellenbosch (the home league fixture last season) and a single 1-1 draw, which was the last time they met in October.
Another defeat for Stellenbosch, and teams around them picking up points, will leave them staring a most unlikely relegation in the face.
AMAZULU V BAROKA FC
Now that the drama around coach Benni McCarthy and the ‘will he, won’t he’ leave for the Bafana Bafana job has been settled, he can concentrate on guiding the side to the CAF Champions League, which would be one of the biggest shocks in South African football in recent times.
Usuthu are playing some of the best football in the league and taken 38 points from the last 42 available (W12 D2) in an incredible run that has seen them go from relegation contenders to championship challengers.
They may run out of games to haul in leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, but second would represent an dream season and bring continental football to the club.
They will expect to brush aside Baroka, a tricky opponent on their day, but certainly no match for a focussed and committed Usuthu.
Baroka have won two of their last 15 games (D9 L4), though they have lost only one of the previous nine on the road (W2 D6).
They have collected 16 points away and 13 at home, and will feel they need just one more win, or a few draws, from their four remaining games to stave off relegation.
The teams have met on nine different occasions, with Baroka edging the head-to-head 4-3 and two draws. At AmaZulu the record is a win apiece and those two draws.
Usuthu won the reverse fixture in Limpopo 2-0 earlier in the season.
CHIPPA UNITED V BLACK LEOPARDS
A relegation six-pointer if ever there was one, Black Leopards need a win to have any hope of survival as they sit at the foot of the table, while Chippa United could move out of the relegation play-off position and above a host of clubs with a victory.
The latter must overcome the disappointment of losing the Nedbank Cup final to TTM on Saturday, and be fully focussed on their survival bid.
They have won their last two league games, away at Kaizer Chiefs and home to Stellenbosch FC, with that latter victory their first in the Eastern Cape since the start of November.
Three of their remaining four games are at home, with their only away clash another crunch meeting with TTM. They also host fellow strugglers Bloemfontein Celtic, meaning their fate is largely in their own hands.
Leopards also face Chippa before the end of the season, but must also play unpredictable Kaizer Chiefs (home) and Cape Town City (away).
Leopards’ 42 goals conceded this season is eight more than the next worse-off sides, Chippa and TTM. Only the latter have netted fewer than their 19 goals.
Chippa have largely dominated this fixture and lead the head-to-head 6-1 (with two draws), and have outscored their opponents a whopping 18-7 in that time.
They have won the last two meetings, including a comprehensive 3-0 success away in January. Leopards have never won at the home of Chippa.
MARITZBURG UNITED V LAMONTVILLE GOLDEN ARROWS
A KwaZulu-Natal Derby with a bearing on both ends of the table, Maritzburg United remain just a point above the relegation play-off position, while Lamontville Golden Arrows are clinging on to third place by a point from Orlando Pirates, who have a game in hand.
Golden Arrows could be closer to the leaders were it not for their rash of draws this season, only Swallows FC (16) have been held more times than Abafana Bes’thende (13).
Maritzburg’s problem has largely been scoring goals, only the three clubs below them have netted fewer than their 24 this campaign.
Both clubs have been on a sticky run of late, Maritzburg have a single win in five (D2 L2), while Golden Arrows have one win in their last seven games (D5 L1).
This is the penultimate home game for Maritzburg this season before they embark on a difficult three-game road trip at TTM, Cape Town City and SuperSport United, so they will likely push for the three points with a home clash against high-flying AmaZulu to round out the season.
Golden Arrows have bossed this fixture in recent times, winning four of the last five games, to go with a single Maritzburg success in January 2020.
In games at the Harry Gwala Stadium, Maritzburg do hold the edge though with five wins to three and four draws.
BLOEMFONTEIN CELTIC V CAPE TOWN CITY
Cape Town City will play a first game since they put Dutch coach Jan Olde Riekerink on administrative leave, with the side to be led by his assistant Diogo Peral.
That decision followed back-to-back losses to AmaZulu (1-5) and TS Galaxy (0-1), and reports of a general fall-out with the dressingroom.
City have likely already secured a top eight place and could finish as high as fifth this season, but just what effect the change of coach will have remains to be seen.
Celtic have just one win in their last 11 matches (D7 L3) and are still not out of the relegation woods yet, though victory here would probably leave them safe.
For all their struggles, they remain tough to beat at home with just a single defeat in 13 in Bloemfontein this season (W5 D7). City have traditionally struggled on the road but have been better this season (W4 D5 L4).
They have won their last three games against Celtic, scoring 10 goals in the process and conceding two, while Phunya Sele Sele last tasted success in October 2017 with a 1-0 win in Cape Town. They have never beaten City in the Free State in four attempts (D3 L1).
SUPERSPORT UNITED V TTM
TTM will be basking in the glory of their Nedbank Cup final win on Saturday. Few would have believed they could win silverware this campaign after their shambolic start to the season, both on and off the pitch.
But they will have to come down to earth fast as they are still very much in a relegation scrap, even if recent results have been far more promising with three wins in their last four games in all competitions.
SuperSport, meanwhile, are seemingly in freefall with no wins in their last 10 games (D7 L3) and dropping off in the race for CAF club competition qualification.
Their last three games have all ended 1-1, among 11 draws this campaign, a number far too high for coach Kaitano Tembo’s liking.
This will be the fourth meeting between the clubs this season, with SuperSport having won in Limpopo in the league and MTN8 quarterfinals. They made a third trip to the province for the Nedbank Cup Last 32, but TTM won 1-0 thanks to a goal from former Matsatsantsa forward Thabo Mnyamane.
Only Stellenbosch FC (three) have secured fewer points than SuperSport (four) in the last six games, and they will be looking for a strong finish to the season to build some confidence for the next campaign.
SuperSport will likely have a say in who finishes in the relegation play-off position as they must still play TTM, Maritzburg United and Chippa United this season.
KAIZER CHIEFS V SWALLOWS FC
If Kaizer Chiefs have hopes of qualifying for the MTN8 next season then they likely have to win this game against the league’s ‘draw kings’ Swallows FC.
The AmaKhosi sit three points behind TS Galaxy in eighth and are slightly worse off in the goal-difference department. They too have been stung by too many draws this season (11).
Swallows are still very much in the hunt for the top three and trail third-placed Lamontville Golden Arrows by three points with a game in hand.
But they are also on the cusp of matching the PSL record for the most draws in a 30-game season – 17 – and are just one short of that now. Incredibly, 13 of their 16 stalemates have been by 1-1 scorelines. Twelve of Swallows' 16 draws have come in their last 14 games.
Few would bet against that again, these are two teams that battle to put away the opposition.
Chiefs have won 11 of the last 23 meetings, with Swallows victorious in six of those games, which did include the reverse fixture earlier this season that was won 1-0 in November.
But that was The Birds’ first win over Chiefs since 2009.