THE biggest match of the season so far could not have come at a better time. Defending champions Caps United, who have cruised to victories in their first four matches of the season, face a ma
ssive test of character at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday against a Highlanders outfit that is step-by-step rediscovering their winning formula after a bumpy start to the season.
Going by the formbook, Caps would be favourites to win this Buddie PSL battle. But it was only last season that Highlanders took four points off Caps United, becoming the only team to beat the Harare side. This is another classic that will be decided by the teams’ heart on the day.
It is a sin among their fans for Highlanders to lose at the fortress of Barbourfields. And the Bosso players cannot take that tradition lightly either. Liverpool proved it on Tuesday evening how great football supporters can sway the advantage on their team’s side when the Reds progressed to the final of the Uefa Champions league at the expense of fancied Chelsea.
On paper Caps should be the better side. Caps coach Charles Mhlauri is again spoilt for choice as he has a full-strength squad at his disposal. Most of his players can move forward to support the attack with ferocious results.
Soccer star of the year Cephas Chimedza’s penetrative moves down the left wing cannot go unchecked, while captain Laughter Chilembe is rock-solid in defence. Young goalkeeper Tsungai Mudzamiri is growing in confidence with each outing and has not conceded a goal in the new season since taking over from injured veteran Witness Munkhuli.
In midfield, under-rated linkman Artwell Mabhiza works tirelessly, and with the help of the likes of Raymond Undi and Malawian Joseph Kamwendo, the lethal Leornard Tsipa and speedy Brian Badza can be assured of a clean supply of balls upfront.
But then the opponents are Highlanders. Coach Dick Chama knows he has to do everything within his power to thwart any strategy Caps would have.
His defence of Anzilom Ndlovu and company is worrisome, but in midfield, the Bulawayo giants have match-winners in the industrious Honour Gombami, Tapuwa Kapini and Gift Lunga.
While the goals have started trickling in for Highlanders, Chama would still be bothered though that his first-choice strike force of Ralph Matema, Thabani Masawi and Collins Nyambiya has not hit top form. Rookie Patrick Mpofu and Gombami, who both scored in the 2-0 win over Monomotapa last Sunday, will be called upon to provide the saviour act again.
In the back of their mind, Caps may be aware of the grave odds on them to retain the title, but playing second fiddle to Bosso for the second year round will be unpleasant, while for Highlanders, beating Caps for a third premiership win on the trot will the best way to launch a serious challenge for the title.
Meanwhile, pressure is increasing on Dynamos director of coaching Sunday Chidzambwa to sit on the team’s bench for their fixture against Monomotapa on Sunday after Amazulu handed the Harare side their third defeat of the season last week.
In other matches on Sunday, improving Railstars and Amazulu square up in a Bulawayo derby at White City Stadium. Top marksman Sageby Sandaka and linkman Ronald Sibanda, who scored last week against Dynamos, are the players to watch for Amazulu, while Railstars coach Droment Chirova will look up to striker Tendai Mwarura and midfielder Master Masiku.
Shabanie Mine host Hwange at Maglas eager to keep on winning after dismissing struggling Black Rhinos 3-2 in Harare last Sunday.
Buymore v Lancashire Steel (Gwanzura), Eiffel Wildcats v Masvingo (Rimuka), Motor Action v Chapungu (Rufaro), Sundowns v Black Rhinos (Luveve).