South Africa

Real test for Birds' title hopes as they face champs Downs

Swallows may have held their own against giants such as Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, but facing league champions and current leaders Mamelodi Sundowns will be a real test for the Dube Birds’ title credentials.

The two teams, who are level on 26 points, are unbeaten in the DStv Premiership and will face each other in a top-of-the-table clash at Lucas Moripe Stadium tomorrow (3pm).

Swallows have done well against big teams, having defeated their Soweto rivals Chiefs 1-0 before drawing 1-1 with Pirates this season. In those two matches, they showed a never-say-die attitude as they scored late goals.

But the match against Sundowns tomorrow could prove the ultimate test of their title credentials.

Swallows had the opportunity to go top of the log on Wednesday, but Chippa United held them to a 1-1 draw. This follows after Sundowns were held to a goalless draw at home by Bloemfontein Celtic, a repeat of their previous result against SuperSport United.

Sundowns midfielder Gaston Sirino says he is pleased to be back and wants to help the team win more games. “I feel happy to be back in the side after being away for a long time. It’s a great feeling to come back and help the team with an assist or a goal whenever I can, and I want to go out and work hard for the side,” Sirino told the club's website.

“This season we want to make sure we keep the standard from last season and bring more accolades to the club. We want to dominate the league and go further in the CAF Champions League. It is a cup where we come up against good teams, and we do have the players that can go out there and win the cup.”

Swallows coach Brandon Truter said he expects fireworks against Sundowns after both teams dropped points in their midweek matches. 

“We focus on our next game. We have to get ready. We have to prepare mentally and physically. It is a tough task going into Saturday’s game with the opponents having rested an extra day, and we will struggle to put our best IX for that game,” Trutter told Swallows' media department.

Themba Zwane of Downs and Ruzaigh Gamildien of Swallows will be relied on to continue with their scoring exploits tomorrow. The duo won player of the month awards for November and December, respectively.

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