Dynamos, Bulls in tricky ties

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The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League approaches its final phases with weekend matches expected to provide more drama and intrigue.

With six games left to play before the curtain comes down, the race for the title has been narrowed to three teams — FC Platinum, Dynamos and Motor Action — while fourth-placed Highlanders on 38 points, eight behind the log leaders, will feel they are still in it.

The battle for the now coveted top-eight finish is also on between Caps United, Chicken Inn, Hwange, Gunners and possibly Monomotapa.

Teams which finish in the top eight play in the BancABC Sup8r tournament and also enjoy the luxury of being top seeds in the Mbada Diamonds Cup next season.

The relegation battle is also intensifying at the other end of the log, with at least six teams trapped in that undesirable zone.

Kiglon, Shooting Stars, Zimbabwe Saints and Shabanie Mine are currently occupying the red zone but other teams like Masvingo United, Black Mambas and Monoz are just above the relegation zone and will enter the final rounds with a chance of escaping the guillotine and an equal chance of playing Division one football next season.

However, while there will be interesting battles all around in the league, there is no doubt the matches involving the top three teams will attract more attention this weekend.

Log leaders FC Platinum will seek to peel away from the trailing teams when they welcome a rejuvenated Black Mambas side at Mandava Stadium today, in a repeat of the Mbada Diamonds Cup first round match which the Platinum boys narrowly won 1-0.

The Zvishavane-based side will be looking to build on their convincing win over Blue Ribbon last week as they seek to win the title in their maiden season.

The hosts will be missing the services of their top goal-scorer Charles Sibanda and Menard Mupera through suspension.

Second-placed Dynamos, who are just a point away from the log leaders, make a trip to Mucheke to face Masvingo United but without two of their best players, goalkeeper Washington Arubi and striker Cuthbert Malajila.

The duo are in Cape Verde on national duty.
Dynamos are on a roll at the moment and will look at this fixture as one of those, although it can prove to be a banana skin for the Harare giants.

In the absence of Malajila, Martin Vengesai is expected to partner Rodreck Mutuma upfront while Maxwell Nyamupanedengu is likely to provide cover for Arubi.

Defending league champions Motor Action, who have picked six points from a possible 18 in their last games, will be looking to get their league campaign up and running again against an equally struggling Blue Ribbon at Motor Action Sports Club today.

At Barbourfields, under-performing Bulawayo football giants Highlanders entertain relegation-threatened Shooting Stars.

Bosso are coming from a shock 1-0 defeat to troubled Black Mambas in Harare last week, a week after they were bundled out of the Mbada Diamonds Cup first round by city rivals Zimbabwe Saints.

All has not been rosy for Highlanders, who last tasted an emphatic victory when they beat log leaders FC Platinum 1-0 at Barbourfields Stadium in August through a header by Louis Matawu.

Following the win over FC Platinum, Mkhuphali Masuku-coached Highlanders have played seven matches and won one game, scraping past Blue Ribbon in a dreary 1-0 win at Emagumeni on September 18 and sharing the spoils with city neighbours Chicken Inn on August 21.

They fell to Black Mambas last week,
3-1 to Caps United and 1-0 to Motor Action in Harare.

Highlanders lost the BancABC Sup8r Cup to the Mighty Bulls in 1-0 defeat at Barbourfields last month and had an early exit from the $1 million Mbada Diamonds Cup after falling 6-5 to Zimbabwe Saints in a penalty shootout at the colliery.

Despite the mediocre performance by Highlanders, they have stuck to position four in the log standing although losing ground in the race for the championship against FC Platinum, Dynamos and Motor Action.

They trail third-placed Motor Action by five points and are eight behind FC Platinum, scoring only three goals in seven matches.

Sources have said a reshuffle is looming in the technical department amid allegations of power struggles on the bench and interference from the executive.

However, on the field of play, striker Graham Ncube appears to be gaining form, scoring the important goals for Highlanders, last week without captain Gilbert Banda who pulled a muscle against Saints.