Top 8 battles signal start of PSL season
THE Premier Soccer League rolls up the curtain tonight on what is expected to be yet another enthralling season, with treble champions Orlando Pirates promising to defend all their titles.
The Buccaneers begin their campaign with the defence of their MTN8 title against Bloemfontein Celtic at Orlando stadium.
Pirates are also holders of the Premiership, which kicks off next Saturday, and the Telkom Knockout.
The Buccaneers have been drawn against a Celtic team that is not expected to win the Top 8, especially being poor travellers, judging by last season's record.
However, the rest of the sides making up the lucrative competition have threatened to end Pirates' dominance.
Supersport United, who ended the season with a winners' medal in the Nedbank Cup, are capable of picking up from where they left off.
And Gavin Hunt has not had to tweak his team too much, as only skipper Morgan Gould and Tebogo Langerman left the club at the end of last season.
Gould went to Kaizer Chiefs and Langerman headed for Mamelodi Sundowns.
United host Free State Stars, at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane. Stars are making a return to the tournament after missing out last season.
Unlike their opponents tomorrow, Stars have made a number of changes but still managed to keep their coach, Steve Komphela, after almost losing him to Bafana.
The Bethlehem-based club finished sixth last season, a position that could have been improved had it not been for poor refereeing that cost them crucial points.
However, they have since sold key players, with top scorer Edward Manqele being scooped up by Sundowns.
But the pick of the weekend undoubtedly has to be on Sunday between two teams that under-performed in the previous campaign and disappointed their fans - Sundowns and Chiefs at Loftus.
For the Brazilians, it has been business as usual: a pre-season camp in Swaziland and a spending spree that all have become too familiar (Sundowns have bought at least five well-known players for the new season).
And they have surprisingly kept coach Johan Neeskens, who was in his debut season, following a fourth successive year without any silverware.
Chiefs have a new-look team and a new coach in former Bafana mentor Stuart Baxter. The Englishman has made assurances to bring back the glory days.
A win to keep hopes of a trophy alive is non-negotiable, but only one team can get to the two-legged semifinals and regardless of who bombs out, pressure will soon build up even before the Premier League starts next week.
Moroka Swallows also make a happy return to the MTN8, taking on Amazulu at Dobsonville stadium on Sunday.