Sounding off: EWN Sport's PSL predictions

With Absa Premiership set to kick off this weekend, the EWN Sport team stick their necks out and give their predictions for the 2018/2019 season.

Mamelodi Sundowns crowned 2017/18 PSL champions. Picture: Twitter/@Masandawana

With the Absa Premiership set to kick off this weekend, the EWN Sports team sticks their necks out and give their predictions in four categories (Top 3, Player of the Season, Players to Watch and Golden Boot winner) for the 2018/2019 season.

Have a read, analyse and tell us if you agree or where you believe we have gone wrong.

MORENA MOTHUPI

Absa Premiership Top 3:
1. Orlando Pirates
2. Mamelodi Sundowns
3. Kaizer Chiefs

Even though they now have the CAF Champions League on their to-do list, I think Pirates are in a better place to improve on last season’s finish, which was runner’s up, taking into consideration that they have a new technical team, new players and had just come from an 11th place finish in 2016/2017.

Player of the Season:
Gaston Sirino – the Uruguayan has a chance to step into Percy Tau’s shoes and perhaps do better than Tau, given the talent and unpredictability with which he comes. He showed glimpses of his brilliance in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup. There’s more where that came from.

Augustine Mulenga scored one of the goals of the month in just a couple of games in a foreign league that he was still trying to get used to. It hasn’t taken him too long to acclimatise to the Absa Premiership and if Pirates are to win the league and other silverware, they will need him to do what he did at the CHAN earlier this year and show why they bought him. His relationship with countryman Justin Shonga and that midfield setup that includes Thembinkosi Lorch, Thabo Qalinge, Ben Motshwari, Vincent Pule and Luvuyo Memela, among others will be crucial. There's enough depth to allow the Zambian to shine.

Players to watch out for:
Lebo Maboe – Having just joined Mamelodi Sundowns from Maritzburg United, I think Pitso Mosimane will take his game to a level that Fadlu Davids may not have been able to. Maboe has shown his class in Bafana colours in the Cosafa Cup and it goes without saying that he was destined for a bigger club. He has the likes of Andile Jali, Hlompho Kekana, Oupa Manyisa and Tiyani Mabunda to learn from. He will blossom.

Siphesihle Ndlovu – I predict that Maritzburg will make the top 5 again this season and Ndlovu will be crucial to that again if he is not snatched at the last minute. He showed us what he’s capable of last season and it was only a little bit.

Gift Links – He’s young and has no experience in the Absa Premiership, but he comes from Egypt and there’s no better country to go to to gain valuable experience. I haven’t seen much of him, but there’s a reason Stuart Baxter likes him and John Comitis and Benni McCarthy went after him. He excites me.

Vincent Pule – Bidvest Wits had a horrible season, considering they were the defending league champions, but every time I went out to watch them, the standout player, and consistently within that Clever Boys mess was Pule and I’m not surprised that Pirates went after him. A target of Kaizer Chiefs for some time, but we know how quickly they act on their targets. A loss for them because I think Giovanni Solinas could’ve done something with him since they don’t have quality wingers right now. As mentioned earlier, he will be vital for the likes of Augustine Mulenga, Justin Shonga, and even Thami Gabuza, who likes to be fed from the flanks.

Golden Boot winner:
Augustine Mulenga

PHILASANDE SIXABA

Absa Premiership Top 3:
1. Orlando Pirates
2. Mamelodi Sundowns
3. SuperSport United

The Ghosts of Orlando have certainly reinvigorated themselves on and off the field of play. On it, they have put in some stellar performances last season to finish second behind eventual title winners Mamelodi Sundowns, which is their best finish in three seasons where they finished 7th in 2015/16 and a lowly 11th in 2016/17. Off the field, they have made some quality acquisitions which have come in and made an immediate impact and with Micho Sredojevic and Rhulani Moekwena fine-tuning the team, the Buccaneers are expected to haunt many a side this season.

Player of the Season:
Augustine Mulenga – The Zambian marksman has made his presence felt almost immediately at Pirates, scoring some crucial goals since his arrival at Orlando Stadium during the January transfer market. Mulenga has gone on record recently, saying that he wants to emulate another Zambian in the great Denis Lota, who reached folk hero status at the Soweto club.

Players to watch out for:
Gift Links – Benni McCarthy and Cape Town City have acquired a diamond in the rough in 19-year-old Links. The former Alassiouty midfielder impressed for Bafana Bafana in the recent Cosafa Cup where they won the plate final. His imagination and creativity on attack could see him be a long-term replacement for the aging Teko Modise in the midfield for the Citizens.

Jeremy Brockie – After an impressive period for SuperSport United, the New Zealand international has now moved to Chloorkop but has struggled to produce the same form for his new club and failed to score in several months. His coach Pitso Mosimane attributed that slump in form to a heavy workload and now believes a rested Brockie will return to the form that saw him be a thorn in ide for opposition clubs in the league.

Gaston Sirino – The Uruguayan playmaker has really caught the eye and endeared himself to Sundowns fans in his first season at Chloorkop and was instrumental to Masandawana’s Absa Premiership title success. The diminutive attacking midfielder formed a formidable partnership with the departed Percy Tau, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Themba Zwane and Mosimane says that Sirino has plenty of goals in him too.

Golden Boot winner:
Augustine Mulenga

AHMED KAJEE

Absa Premiership Top 3:
1. Mamelodi Sundowns
2. Kaizer Chiefs
3. Cape Town City

Given the fact that Kaizer Chiefs have a new coach, we can expect an overall improvement this season. However, they may battle to keep up with a Sundowns team that have depth and talent second to none in the league. Cape Town City seemed to drop off in the home stretch of last season and the only things the Cape Town side will want to lose is a few kilograms off their head coach.

Player of the Season:

Sibusiso Vilakazi – His great form was definitely a highlight in the last year. With Percy Tau’s move to Europe, he’ll be working extra hard to be recognised as well. We can expect a brilliant season from him.

Siphesihle Ndlovu – After scalping a double at the PSL Awards last season, the midfielder is expected to do much of the same. He’ll be hoping to continue that form and also prove his worth after signing a contract extension a few months

Players to watch out for:
Themba Zwane – He was a key player in Sundown’s successes in the previous campaign, however with Khama Billiat and Percy Tau off to pursue greener pastures, Zwane – along with Gaston Sirino - we can expect a higher work rate, and more responsibility on Zwane.

Rivaldo Coetzee – This season is an important one for Coetzee. His much-anticipated return from injury may have an element of pressure added to it. However, if his early antics are anything to go by, we can expect fireworks. If all goes well, he’ll be firing on all cylinders by October.

Joao Moreira – The Portuguese signing for Golden Arrows will have a lot to prove in the PSL this season. He impressed coach Clinton Larsen during preseason and will bring some much-needed finesse up front.

Golden Boot winner:
Sibusiso Vilakazi

CARL LEWIS

Absa Premiership Top 3:
1. Mamelodi Sundowns
2. Orlando Pirates
3. Bidvest Wits

Masandawana are favourites to defend their title as no other squad can in the league can compete with Sundowns in terms of depth and quality. I do expect Orlando Pirates to compete and build from last season, however, I feel that Sundowns will have the edge on them.

Player of the Season:
Gaston Sirino - Pitso Mosimane has touted Sirino to lead the team in terms of their attack. The Uruguayan oozes class and with Billiat and Percy Tau gone, there is a vacancy for a lead role and he has all the requirements to fill it.

Sibusiso Vilakazi - I believe Vilakazi’s stock will rise this season. The 28-year-old is in his prime as a footballer and he could have his best season to date.

Players to watch out for:
Keagan Buchanan – His Chiefs career was anti-climactic, but under the guidance of a progressive and creative coach such as Fadlu Davids, the 26-year-old could fulfill his obvious potential in the unique Maritzburg system.

Surprise Ralani – He joined Cape Town City in January after a spell in Sweden and the winger made an immediate impact. He faces stiff competition at City in the wide areas but the winger has the experience and guile to be City’s star.

Rivaldo Coetzee – Before injury struck, Coetzee was a Bafana regular and was set to move to Scottish giants Celtic, however, his career has stopped sharply in its tracks. Now, almost back to full fitness, I expect Coetzee to excel at a big club and show the South African public once again why he made his Bafana debut as a teenager.

Golden Boot winner:
Sibusiso Vilakazi