CHICKEN Inn coach Joey Antipas says they respect Harare City for their achievements last season but they are targeting maximum points when they host the municipal side at Luveve Stadium on Saturday as the 2014 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season finally kicks off.
On the same day, league returnees Bantu Rovers will lock horns with Black Rhinos at the same venue at 1pm before Antipas and his charges tackle Harare City at 3:30pm.
Both matches will be screened live on SuperSport 9.
Harare City finished the season third on the log table behind champions Dynamos and runners-up Highlanders.
Bigboy Mawiwi won the Coach of the Year Award.
Antipas, who joined the Gamecocks towards the end of last season, said they were ready for the challenge.
“We expect a very tight affair because Harare City are a very strong side. They have a very good squad and if you look at what they did last season we have to respect them for their achievements. However, this is a new season altogether. It will be a tight affair, but we have to collect points at home.
“We still have a lot of work to do as it takes time for the team to gel, but we have to put maximum effort. Our aim is to win. All the players are up for selection with the exception of Passmore Benard who picked a knock. He will be unavailable for the match,” he said.
Eyes will be on new acquisitions Graham Ncube, Ramson Zhuwawo, Ishmael Lawe, Morgen Mungombe, Bhekimpilo Ncube, Bhekimpilo Ncube (goalkeeper), Toto Banda and George Majika as well as Divine Lunga, a defender, and Michael Bhebhe, a midfielder, who were promoted from the junior ranks.
Mawiwi is also wary of the Chicken Inn encounter.
“It will be a very tough game. Playing the first game at home is always a confidence booster, but we face Chicken Inn away. It will be a tough assignment, but we hope to play good football. Chicken Inn are a very professional and ambitious side.
“We are happy that we also have new players in the team. We have Agrippa Murimba, Tinotenda Kadewere and Benson Maglasi. Their coming-in will strengthen the team and give a lot of competition,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bantu Rovers assistant coach Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu says victory against the army side will boost their confidence.
“It is a must-win encounter. The first three points of the season will give us a lot of confidence. We are ready for the challenge. I think we have blended in well because we have experienced players and youngsters in the team.
“There are youngsters who want to make a name for themselves. Obadiah Tarumbwa and Raphael Kutinyu have slight knocks and we are assessing them,” said the former Chicken Inn gaffer.
Black Rhinos coach Arthur Tutani said they were aware of the danger Bantu Rovers pose.
“Bantu Rovers are not a new team in the league so they want to prove a point. It is not going to be an easy match, but as coach we want to play for a win. I know it will be a tough game because Bantu Rovers will be fighting hard because they want to survive. They have been in Division One for the past two seasons and they know it is hard to come back to the top-flight league,” he said.
Tutani said the coming-in of new players had brought in competition in the team.
“We have Jonathan Zvaita who will fight for the goalkeeper’s position with Herbert Rusawo and Samuel Mafukidze. We also have Beaven Chikaka who will add more punch upfront. He will fight for the jersey against Phillip Marufu, Lot Chiunga and Brian Muzondiwa. As for Bantu Rovers, they have Obadiah Tarumbwa, he is a very good striker.
If he is still the player I know, that is a good signing,” he said.