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SA SOCCER NEWS
Little to choose between Ajax and Birds 26/01/05
Tonight's Castle Premiership clash at the Newlands Stadium between Ajax Cape Town and Moroka Swallows promises to be an intriguing battle of two evenly matched teams.

Both clubs are in the group that has formed behind log leaders Orlando Pirates, and they will be aware that any more dropped points could spell the end of any potential title race.

Both team's managers have already admitted that it is going to be extremely difficult to catch up with the Buccaneers, and although they have not discounted this possibility, their focus has shifted to finishing second in the league and thereby qualifying for the Champion's League.

Swallows will be conscious that they failed to win in the Mother City last season, however, they do have the mental advantage in knowing that they have already put the sword to the Urban Warriors twice this season with comprehensive victories in the SAA Supa 8 and the Castle Premiership up in Johannesburg.

With a lot riding on this game, it will be interesting to see the tactical battle between two of the country's top managers, Gordon Igesund and Gavin Hunt, and keeping an eye on the sidelines is likely to provide some entertainment of its own as these two use their unique methods of bringing out the best in their respective charges.

Both teams like to make full use of the pitch to bring their wide men into play and there should be some interesting battles down the flanks as the wingers vie for supremacy.

It will remain to see if Hunt uses Lungisani Ndlela in the starting line-up, as the big man looks set to leave the club, but if he does play Ndlela will be in for a difficult battle with Ajax defenders Cyrille Mubiala and Bradley August, who are tough competitors and strong in the air and will not let 'Masinga' have things his own way.

Tshololo Tshinyama is the man with the experience in a youthful Ajax midfield department, and the hard-working DRC-born player is going to have his work cut out in restricting the influence that Maimane Phiri and Swallows skipper Goodman Mazibuko have on the game.

Veteran striker Wilfred Mugeyi's well-taken goal against Bloemfontein Celtic last week would have boosted his confidence and the Zimbabwean will be looking for more of the same against a depleted Swallows back four, who are missing the likes of Ivan Winstanley and Peter Petersen, while Warren Lewis and Gary McNab also doubtful.

Experienced former Kaizer Chiefs defender Mohammed Ouseb has settled in very well at Swallows, and Hunt will be looking for another solid performance from the reliable Namibian in what is expected to be a make-shift Birds defence.

Hunt was not, however, going to give away much with regards to his team selection, saying that he would only make his selections at the last minute.

Ajax still have a number of players unavailable - the left sided duo of Franklyn Cale and Brett Evans are suspended, Shane Poggenpoel and Joseph Ngake are out injured, defender Dominic Isaacs is out with flu, while Grant Igesund's contract with the team has expired.

Ajax's two new signings, Thembinkosi 'Terror' Fanteni and Seuntjie Motlhajwa, will also not be eligible to play - they have to wait until the transfer window opens at the end of the month before they can make their respective debuts.

By Anthony McLennan

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