Champions Wits look to bounce back in midweek

Champions Wits look to bounce back in midweek
James Keene of Bidvest Wits (c) celebrates goal during the 2016/17 Absa Premiership football match between Bidvest Wits and Polokwane City at Bidvest Stadium, Johannesburg on 17 May 2017 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Tuesday Aug 22, 2017. 09:30

Bidvest Wits will look to bounce back from an opening round defeat in the Absa Premiership when they head to Goble Park to take on Free State Stars on 23 August 2017, kick-off at 19h30.

Wits opened the defence of their league championship with a frustrating 1-0 home loss at the hands of Cape Town City on the weekend, with Lehlohonolo Majoro’s goal proving the difference between the teams.

The Clever Boys had to play the match with head coach Gavin Hunt in the stands due to a suspension picked up in the MTN8, and he will again be missing from the sidelines as he serves out the last game of his ban. The Johannesburg side must shrug off his absence and focus on putting their first points on the board for 2017/18.

Stars also got their league campaign off to a slow start, suffering a 1-0 defeat away to AmaZulu on Saturday. The Free State side looked on course for a respectable away draw until conceding a late penalty which allowed the hosts to come away with all three points on offer.

Coach Sammy Troughton will be aiming to make Goble Park a fortress for Ea Lla Koto and improve on a home record from last season which saw them pick up just 20 points from 15 matches. If they can start with a win over the champions, it will set the tone for the remainder of 2017/18.

In head-to-head stats, Stars and Wits have met in 53 league matches since 1986. The Clever Boys have claimed 18 wins compared to 15 for Ea Lla Koto, while no less than 20 matches have been drawn. The Free State side will be banking on their strong home record against their Johannesburg counterparts, with 12 wins and just five losses from 27 matches as hosts.

Last season the teams took three points off each other, with the Clever Boys winning 3-1 in Johannesburg in the first half of the campaign, while the return game in the Free State saw Ea Lla Koto claim a 3-1 win of their own - a crucial result in their battle against relegation.

Stars’ line-up from their 1-0 loss to AmaZulu on 19 August: Sangare, Masehe, Mahamutsa, Mbhele, Jantjie, Mashego, Teyise, Vilakazi, Venter, Dlamini (Hlubi 59'), Nono (Mthembu 24').

Wits’ line-up from their 1-0 loss to Cape Town City on 18 August: Josephs, Khumalo, Hlatshwayo, Scott (Pienaar 64'), Hlanti, Monare, Claasen, Frosler, Pelembe, Pule (Mhango 46'), Keene (Klate 75').

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