Birds may edge Ajax

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Kick off is at 15h00.

With the stakes being so high, both teams will be eager to progress to the semifinals. The winner of the tournament will receive R8 million, while all other participants receive a R800 000 appearance fee, irrespective of where they finish.

The Birds have new Brazilian coach Julio Cesar Leal, who has done well in the past, especially two years ago when he saved struggling AmaZulu from relegation.

Leal has also done some good things in his short time at Swallows, including signing the experienced Fabian McCarthy, after the departure of Bafana defender Bevan Fransman left a huge gap. While McCarthy may lack some speed, he makes up for it in his reading of the game.

Leal has also brought a host of Brazilian players with the likes of Davi Rancan, Candido da Silva and Igore Alves to spice things up.

Two other new signings in the Birds’ camp are former South African Under-23 striker Ryan Botha and midfielder Morgan Shivambu from Winners Park.

Ajax, on the other hand, has suffered tremendously, losing the services of two strikers in Nathan Paulse and Russell Mwafulirwa to European clubs.

They also lost Dominic Isaacs, who left to join Kaizer Chiefs after nine years of service and Bryce Moon who departed to play overseas.

However, the Urban Warriors will hope the signing of Mabhuti Khenyeza will go a long way to offset the absence of the strikers.

Khenyeza has the experience and strike-power to stabilise Ajax’s attacking force and should find their offensive game plan to his liking.

In order to restore the balance of the rest of the team, Ajax also signed a number of players who will add experience to the squad and also promoted some youngsters from the Youth Academy to the first team to inject fresh blood into the side.

The new recruits are; Thomrick October, Eric Biseer, Tasui Mohammed, Sean Roberts, Nhlanhla Kubeka and Martin Carelse. The players promoted from the youth academy are: Cole Alexander, Chad Robertson and Andile Mbenyane.

The game promises to be a close one as only one result separates them in the statistics. Out of the 20 games they have played since 1999, Swallows have won nine and Ajax eight. With R8 million on the line, the players of both sides will lay their bodies on the line for a win.

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