Preview - Swallows v S Stars
Moroka Swallows' sparse performances in the New Year look set to continue when they face high-riding log leaders Silver Stars in a Castle Premiership match at the Germiston Stadium on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 3.45pm).
After an impressive December that saw Swallows notch up three successive victories, the hunger, passion and zest that made antagonists believe that the sleeping giant of Soweto had awakened, is lacking.
Gone are the days when Swallows were invincible and gave their opponents nightmares.
By allowing the struggling Black Leopards to force a 2-2 draw after leading by two goals and losing 0-1 to an in-form SuperSport United in the midweek fixture, the 'Dube Birds' must beat the rampaging Stars.
Captain of the ninth-placed Swallows, Goodman Mazibuko, acknowledges that the pressure is mounting. He is also aware that should they return empty-handed for the second time in a row, it will be difficult to challenge for the league title.
"Things like this happen in football and it is crucial to put our minds together and ensure that we return to winning ways," said Mazibuko.
"Our inconsistent run has been making our fans unhappy and having assembled the best squad at the beginning of the season, I cannot figure out what the problem is but we must quickly fix it as matter of urgency.
"Stars are the Telkom Knockout champions and occupy a lofty position for the past three months, they deserve to be respected - but we can beat them."
Despite the enormous attention his boys are attracting under his tutelage - that has seen them continuing to perform in a refreshingly adventurous manner - Stars coach Owen da Gama, as usual, remained level-headed and refused to indicate that the title pendulum was, in fact, swinging their direction.
"Look, we still have tough matches ahead of us. To say that the title is within our reach, I will be lying," said the modest Da Gama.
"All renowned title chasers are going to fight until the last day and with 13 more matches to go, it is too early to say we are champions-elect.
"Swallows have always gives us trouble and I expect the same this time around. They might have lost to United, but they have a street-wise coach who is well respected within the corridors of football in the country.
"Our motto is taking one game at the time and I hope we prevail on Sunday."
Moroka Swallows - Goodman Mazibuko
Mazibuko will hope to inspire his team-mates against the log leaders and obtain a result that could put Swallows in the running for the Castle Premiership title.
Silver Stars - Hareaipha Marumo
Marumo had a quiet game against Kaizer Chiefs, but he will be hoping to reassert himself as one of the in-form strikers in South Africa at present.
Match preview by Patrick Baloyi/Backpagepix