The pair will square off today at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg in a PSL showdown at 3pm.
The big question is who will reign supreme in this much anticipated contest?
Fadlu Davids, the United coach, believes Arrows are in pole position ahead of the derby.
“They have beaten us two years in a row in the Premier’s Cup. That’s what we are expecting, Arrows are coming here for three points. It is going to be the toughest game of the season. Arrows are one of the best counter-attacking sides in the league and are very organised defensively. They have good defensive unity and structure,” Davids said.
Last weekend United succumbed 1-0 to Arrows in the quarterfinal of the KZN Premier’s Cup, thanks to a well-taken penalty by Siboniso Conco.
Arrows coach Clinton Larsen said his side are brimming with confidence going in to the derby.
“Neither side played their full strength team. Last season they finished fourth on the log and we were eighth. They were way above us in terms of points. They are the one’s who are favourites, and had players nominated for the Player of the Season, Young Player of the Year and Best Midfielder. They’ve got the big names now. We don’t have any big name players in our team,” Larsen said.
Statistics and numbers are suggesting that United are favourite to earn maximum points, as they haven’t lost against Arrows in Pietermaritzburg since 2010.
“All the talks have been around Maritzburg United doing so well, finishing fourth. Their players excelled. Four of them got Bafana Bafana call ups. We don’t have any player who is playing for Bafana,” Larsen further elaborated.
The war of words from the coaches might be carried on to the field of play.
Arrows’ goal-minder, Nkosingiphile Gumede declared nothing but war come matchday.
“It won’t be an easy game. Derbies are always difficult. Our games against Maritzburg United are going to be war. We are targeting the maximum points. If blood has to fly all over the pitch, so be it if that will give us three points, “ Gumede explained as he sent a strong statement to his arch-rivals.
His counterpart, Richard Ofori is also relishing the derby.
“It is good that we are starting the season with the derby so that we will be well prepared for the rest of the campaign. We know how important this game is. It is the first game of the season, it is a big game and we have to be more focused so that we will win the game,” Ofori said.
United were dealt a major blow on Friday as they lost one of their key players, Lebohang Maboe, who joined Mamelodi Sundowns but that won’t affect their preparations, according to the club’s chairman, Farook Kadodia.
“It won’t affect us. We’ve got enough depth in our squad to cope without Maboe. He has been a great servant for the Team and we wish him all the best in his new journey. This a big game for us. We are expecting 10 000 at the stadium, because the game is played on Sunday and in the afternoon. This is one game not to miss,” Kadodia said.
With neither team wanting to give too much away, Arrows changed their training venue several times heading in to the derby.
On Wednesday they trained at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Clermont and on Thursday they conducted their session at George Campbell sports field instead of their usually Moses Mabhida outfield training grounds.
They wanted to hide as far as possible and that’s how important this derby is. Goals, drama and entertaining football should be the order of the day at Harry Gwala Stadium if build-up to this game is anything to go by.
Andrea Fileccia is expected to lead the attack for United and will be up against the hard-tackling, Nkanyiso Mngwengwe at the heart of defence for Arrows.
But the game will be won in the middle of the park where Siphesihle Ndlovu, Fortune Makaringe and Keagan Buchanan will be battling against Sandile Zuke, Danny Phiri and Danny Venter.
The referee will have to be on top of his game as there will be a lot of tackles flying in as both sides will be trying to stamp their authority on the match. The mind games are over and it is time to do the talking in the field.