BOTH the hero and the villain from the first instalment of the epic mid-season double header pitting two top title-chasing giants CAPS United and Highlanders are out of today’s return leg.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
CAPS veteran striker Leonard Tsipa was red-carded for taking competition to a whole new yet illegal level in his team’s narrow defeat in the feisty first match while Highlanders’ goal scorer a fortnight ago Bruce Kangwa searches for green pastures beyond borders.
With two potential match winners out of the script, it’s a perfect opportunity for new stars to step up to the plate when the two teams clash again at the giant National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
Hosts Makepekepe, unlucky to lose a fortnight ago, will be itching for revenge, while Highlanders are yet again happy to carry the underdog tag, a situation that worked perfectly for them the last time.
Makepekepe, in third place on the log standings with 29 points, two behind Bosso who are in second place, are having one of their best seasons in recent years and cannot afford to lose this encounter.
CAPS United assistant coach Fungai Kwashi believes it’s always war each time the two teams meet.
“It’s going to be a tough game. As long as it is CAPS United and Highlanders, it’s war; one wants to kill the other, so expect that on Sunday [today]. It’s a no holds barred, all out action encounter and we hope the fans get value for their money,” Kwashi said.
“Obviously, both teams are in top three. People are excited to come and watch the game. It’s going to be big and we hope both teams give the fans an exciting brand of football,” the former CAPS United striker added.
While both teams occupy the upper echelons of the league, their current form does not make a very pleasant reading. They have both won twice, drawn twice, lost once and a defeat for either side will be a major dent to their title aspirations as the second half of the season begins.
“We are not thinking about the league championship, we just want to win this game and every other game in this defining part of the season. We just want to give the best of the best for our club,” said Kwashi.
In the previous encounter, Highlanders’ Dutch coach Elroy Akbay bemoaned the absence of a number of senior players in his squad. This time he is counting on knowledge of the opponents acquired in the previous meeting
“I know how to play them now. That means, for me it’s now easier to choose my tactics against them. The only problem is we have too many young players in the team and the biggest challenge with young players is that they play good football in the first hour and do nothing the last 30 minutes. I have tried to make sure that all the players are 100% concentrated in this match and I think we have a good chance of winning,” he said.
While CAPS United have been enjoying the mid-season break since they played Bosso in Bulawayo, Highlanders were busy winning the ZNA Charities Cup and also had a mid-week fixture against Triangle which ended in a draw.
Will CAPS United pay for the inactivity, or will fatigue be Bosso’s downfall?
Coach Lloyd Chitembwe’s charges will go into battle without another key player, defender Stephen Makatuka, who is suspended, while the duo of Chrispen Machisi and Cabby Kamhapa are also out due to injuries.
With three-time player of the month Kangwa likely to move away from the Bulawayo giants, Akbay has already brought in Nhlanhla Ndhlovu as replacement for the versatile star player.
The Dutchman was also desperate to have new acquisition from CAPS United, midfielder Allan Gahadzikwa’s papers ready before the 4pm match kick off.
Dribbling attacking midfielder Rahman Kutsanzira, who also had a stint at CAPS United, is expected to make a return in Bosso colours today.
CAPS United v Highlanders (National Sports Stadium, 4pm), Hwange v Tsholotsho (Colliery, 3pm), Chicken Inn v Harare City (Barbourfields Stadium, 3pm), Triangle United v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Gibbo, 3pm)