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‘Y’ELLO RACE: IT’S SQUEAKY BUM TIME!

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The curtain is about to fall on what has been another enthralling MTN Premier League season.

With five games to go, the battles for supremacy and survival are equally fierce. The chase for the Holy Grail of Eswatini has reached a fever pitch. With Mbabane Swallows leading the table and several other top teams in close proximity, it is time to separate the true contenders from the pretenders. As of now, the Premier League table presents an exciting picture. With 21 games played, Swallows on 40 points sit at the top, closely pursued by Green Mamba, Young Buffaloes and Royal Leopard. The three security forces sides are all on 38 points.  Even Nsingizini Hotspurs, who are on 35 points, remain within striking distance. The competition is fierce and fans are beginning to believe that anything could happen in this title race.
Below we zoom in on the teams with a realistic chance to go for gold.

MB. SWALLOWS (40 POINTS)

In the last 19 seasons, Mbabane Swallows are the only non-security forces side to have won the league. Having failed to taste league glory since the 2017-18 season, they are one side that craves the championship the most. Enjoying a slender two-point lead at the top, the formula for Swallows is straightforward; they just need to win all the games and then ascend to the podium to claim the championship. That is only easy on paper. Standing in their quest for supremacy are Illovo, Manzini Sea Birds, Mbabane Highlanders, Ezulwini United and Young Buffaloes, in that order. The next stop is at Illovo, a side that held them to a goalless draw at home in December. Before the big one (Mbabane derby), Swallows have to pass the Manzini Sea Birds’ test. This is an outfit they have dominated over the years, winning four times and playing a goalless draw in the last five meetings. While Swallows should be wary of the last kick of a dying horse (Ezulwini), there is no doubt that their biggest test will be against fellow title contenders Young Buffaloes. If the red and white ensemble can win four games and earn a point a Buffaloes, they will still be in a good position to win silverware.
Remaining games
vs Illovo (A)
vs Manzini Sea Birds (H)
vs Mbabane Highlanders (A)
vs Ezulwini United (H)
vs Young Buffaloes (H)


GREEN MAMBA (38 POINTS)

As defending champions, Green Mamba are expectedly under pressure to tighten their grip on the title. A win against this weekend’s opponents and fierce rivals in Royal Leopard can be a bold statement in their title ambitions. Leopard are not only fellow contenders, but they have won 2-0 in the last meeting. Ezulwini United, Nsingizini Hotspurs, Rangers and Mbabane Highlanders are some of the teams that hope to derail the Correctional Services outfit. A slip-up against one of the sides can be detrimental to their title chase. Green Mamba may have avoided defeat against almost all the sides in the first round (except Leopard), but there is no easy opponent at this time of the season. After all has been said and done, Ernest Mavuso’s troops still have equally good chances of retaining their title.
Remaining games
vs Royal Leopard (H)
vs Ezulwini United (H)
vs N. Hotspurs (A)
vs Rangers (H)
vs Mbabane Highlanders (A)


YOUNG BUFFALOES (38 POINTS)

While Young Buffaloes have become synonymous with inconsistency this season, they are lucky to still found themselves still up there with the ‘big boys.’  Among the top four, they are the team with the highest number of defeats (seven). The army outfit are still to face two of the title contenders in Leopard and Swallows. Completing the list of opponents are Mbabane Highlanders, Manzini Wanderers and Madlenya. The only thing that can boost their title hopes is winning all their remaining games, which will be a tall order. Swallows have proven to be Buffaloes’ hoodoo side, while they have registered one win in five attempts against Leopard. Compared with the rest of the contenders, Buffaloes will have to swim with the sharks.
Remaining games
vs Mbabane Highlanders (H)
vs Manzini Wanderers (A)
vs Royal Leopard (A)
vs Madlenya (H)
vs Swallows (A)

ROYAL LEOPARD (38 POINTS)

Eight-time champions Royal Leopard are eager for a quick return to the podium after back-to-back titles in the period 2021 to 2022. On top of a tough Green Mamba challenge, Young Buffaloes also stand in the police side’s way. Games between Buffaloes and Leopard are always close. In the last five meetings, each side registered one win. In essence, completing a double over Green Mamba could still not be enough for Edwin Matsebula’s men if they cannot pass the Buffaloes test. The rest of the fixtures against Moneni Pirates, Manzini Sea Birds and Rangers are only fair on paper. Leopard are another side that have a mountain to climb in their title ambitions.
Remaining games
vs Green Mamba (A)
vs Moneni Pirates (H)
vs Young Buffaloes (H)
vs Manzini Sea Birds (A)
vs Rangers (H)

N. HOTSPURS (35 POINTS)

Five points adrift of the top spot with five games to play, it is not in Nsingizini Hotspurs’ hands. However, the Shiselweni-based ensemble have proven to be a dark horse in the title race. The last time Nsingizini lost a league match, ‘it rained in the Kalahari Desert’. That was back on December 9, 2023, when they were thrashed 4-0 by Green Mamba. Based on their remaining games and form, they are one side who can snatch the title right under the fellow contenders’ nose.  On paper, the only tough fixture will be at home to Green Mamba. Other teams still to face Nsingizini are Rangers, Illovo, Denver Sundowns and Madlenya.  If the teams in the top four drop points, Nsingizini will be there ‘to pick up the pieces’. Insingizi Yezulu should be ruled out at one’s peril.
Remaining games
vs Rangers (A)
vs Illovo (H)
vs Green Mamba (H)
vs Denver Sundowns (A)
vs Madlenya (A)

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