It’s derby time!
FC Platinum Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title aspirations will be under stern scrutiny when they head into Saturday’s Zvishavane derby against fellow miners Shabanie Mine with a severely depleted squad at Mandava Stadium.
The league leaders plunge themselves headlong into the second edition of the Zvishavane derby painfully feeling the absence of the defensive trio of skipper Zephania Ngodzo, steely centre-back Norman Togara and goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube who are all serving suspension.
Suspended reigning Soccer Star of the Year and winger Charles Sibanda will again suffer the agony of watching from the terraces.
Coach Rahman Gumbo could be forced to employ two men in central defence from his favoured three, with Daniel Vheremu and Itayi Gwandu readily available, while either Tsungi Mudzamiri or Nengomasha Muranganwa could be summoned to guard the goal. Crucial for both sides, Saturday’s showdown will have a strong bearing on both teams’ destinies, making it a sink-or-swim encounter — with the hosts eager to be the first to cross the line in this league race which began seven months ago.
Nearest challengers Dynamos are threatening Platinum’s one-point lead. The platinum miners are on top with 49 points.
For Shabanie, placed on position 13 with 28 points, they are fighting from further sinking into the relegation zone.
Platinum secretary Philimon Muvengwa sounded unfazed at the prospect of missing key players.
“The absence of the four players will not negatively affect us, not even a bit. We have a squad full of good players. Those who will replace the suspended four are equally good and it is their chance to prove their mettle,” said Muvengwa.
Platinum are bruised, coming from an away 2-1 defeat by Gunners which allowed Dynamos to trim the gap from four points to only one after they beat Highlanders 3-1. Muvengwa admitted the threat posed by Shabanie and scoffed at the challenge being mounted by DeMbare.
“Every team in the league has given us a strong challenge and we expect the same from Shabanie. But we have to win. As for Dynamos, we are not worried about their challenge because they are just like Kiglon. We will worry about them in week 29 when we play them,” he said.
The first Zvishavane Premiership derby swung 3-1 in favour of Platinum at Maglas Stadium in early May. Yesterday, Shabanie coach Luke Masomere stoked the flames ahead of the derby by calling Dynamos supporters to throng Mandava and back his team, an invitation which the DeMbare faithfuls will happily consider.
“I am inviting Dynamos supporters to come in numbers and support us. I also call Masvingo fans to be there as well and I would appreciate their support. This is going to be a tough game and so much pressure is on both teams, those who want to survive relegation and those who want to win the league title,” said Masomere.
Despite his assistant Jani Milanzi being sacked from the team this week, Masomere said they had been readying themselves for the derby clash.
“We’ve been preparing well for this match. We cannot prepare to fail. We’re prepared to play and win. I’m not reading much into Platinum missing their key players because I also won’t be having some of mine whom I’m battling to replace. It’s not my business to worry about,” he added.
Midfield hardman Tafadzwa Mombeshora and central defender Boniface Dimanji, expelled from the last match against Motor Action which ended in a goalless draw, are out of the derby match.