THE Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) enters home stretch this weekend with two of the top three teams — Highlanders and ZPC Kariba — clashing this afternoon in Bulawayo, while log leaders Dynamos are in yet another tricky encounter with relegation-threatened Shabanie Mine at Rufaro.
By Brian Nkiwane
After today’s matches, it will get easier to predict where the championship will go, considering both matches involving the top three this afternoon have a bearing on the championship race.
Attention will be at Hartsfield in Bulawayo where Highlanders welcome high-riding ZPC Kariba in a make-or-break encounter.
Bosso will be looking to restoring their tattered pride following last week’s agonising 1-0 defeat to Harare City. The Bulawayo giants had been on top of the log for the better part of the season but were dislodged by old rivals Dynamos.
Their loss to Harare City saw them trailing behind today’s opponents ZPC Kariba by two points. Kauya Katuruturu — as ZPC Kariba are affectionately known — have 41 points while Dynamos lead with 43 points.
Today’s match is a do-or-die for Kelvin Kaindu’s men as another loss would mean falling further behind the leading pack of Dynamos and ZPC Kariba. A win however, would see them dethrone ZPC Kariba on second position and put them within championship reach.
Meanwhile, victory for Kauya Katuruturu will throw Bosso out of the championship contest, thus narrowing the race to a two-team challenge.
Bosso and ZPC Kariba pray that Shabanie Mine produce a Houdini act against Dynamos at Rufaro this afternoon so that they close the gap on the log leaders.
Highlanders, who are trying hard to win the championship which they last won in 2006 under the guidance of Methembe Ndlovu who is now director and coach at Bantu Rovers, are buoyed by the return from suspension of defender Dumisani “Fazo” Ndlovu and midfielder turned defender Simon Munawa who both missed the Harare City tie.
Munawa is expected to resume his anchorman’s role together with Hillary Madzivanyika, while Fazo is expected to take over from former skipper Innocent Mapuranga and join Eric “Tsiba” Mudzingwa in the heart of defence.
Kaindu said he was happy that Webster Chingodza, who seems to have solved his right back position headache that has been giving him sleepless nights, is back in training and will be available for selection.
“All the players will be available for selection, including Njabulo Ncube. A lot has happened but we believe we are still within the range of the log leaders. Anything can happen in the remaining fixtures,” Kaindu said.
ZPC Kariba, who are missing the services of playmaker Raphael Manuvire who was injured in a league match against Chapungu in June, will be out to collect maximum points and continue their fairytale in their maiden dance with top-flight football.
Coach Saul Chaminuka said he will be without two of his first team players Obey Mwerahari and Tsepo Rathokoane, who are both injured.
“We have been playing well so far, thus we hope to continue doing well. Highlanders are playing at home so they will be under pressure taking into consideration that they lost their last match against Harare City. So we might capitalise on that,” Chaminuka said.
Dynamos team manager Richard Chihoro confirmed a clean health bill in his camp, adding that all their registered players were available for selection.
“We are now on top and we have the chance of bagging the fourth staright title. What we need to do is win all our remaining fixtures then we know we are done,” Chihoro said.
However, Shabanie Mine refused to be intimidated.
Head coach Jairos Tapera said his boys were more than ready to face the Zimbabwean football champions but bemoaned the unavailability of Marvellous Dikinya, who will be out serving suspension as well as an injury to striker Tholani Ncube.
He however added that he had told his boys to go into this match without thinking about relegation which is slowly knocking on their doors.
“We have to do with what is in camp for now. Dynamos are a very big team and every coach would want to beat them. We respect them as one of the biggest clubs in the country, but we are going to give our best on Sunday [today],” Tapera said.
“Surviving relegation is another issue, Sunday’s [today] match is another issue. In as much as we would want to survive, if we try and mix the two, then the players will approach this match with a negative mind. We need to win this so as to start talking about surviving”.