WITH just 10 games remaining until the end of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season, the push for the title is truly and well underway.
And unlike last season when the race had been narrowed to just three teams at this stage, this time around it looks set to be a little more open with at least six teams competing to be champions.
What makes the title race even more interesting this season is that the league’s Big Three — Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United — are among the frontrunners vying for the title.
It is champions Dynamos though who are currently top of the pile following their 1-1 draw against Hwange at Rufaro Stadium on Thursday.
The Harare giants have 36 points and are looking for their fourth successive title.
Their previous two league triumphs were achieved on goal difference, but looking at the log table at the moment, just having a better number of goals against rivals might not be good enough this time around.
In any case, their goal difference of +8 fell way below their main rivals.
Dynamos have been in this position before and they know exactly what they need to do.
The problem is that they have been very inconsistent this season, especially against the so-called small teams.
They have lost matches against ZPC Kariba, Chapungu, Buffaloes and dropped five against Hwange, which might come back to haunt them.
The perennial problems that they are known for had appeared to have gone with the coming-in of BancABC as the team’s sponsor.
But they are back. A player mutiny over allowances and a training ground bust-up involving captain Murape Murape and the so-called Prince, Rodreck Mutuma, whose inevitable consequence was a two-week suspension for the two players, hogged the headlines for the past few days and that would certainly affect them going forward.
On second position is Highlanders, just a point behind Dynamos.
They have finished as bridesmaids to Dynamos for the last two seasons and they should be fed up with it.
Bosso look a better side this season, look the more organised of them all, play the most entertaining football and, arguably, are better-equipped in terms of player resources and even administration.
They have bought well, bringing in Njabulo Ncube, Pascal Manhanga and Valentine Ndaba in the just-ended transfer window to add on to the likes of Charles Sibanda, Joel Ngodzo and Felix Chindungwe, who joined at the start of the season.
They look a complete team and while it is difficult to count out Dynamos winning the title, Bosso look like a real threat to the Harare giants’ dominance.
Then there is ZPC Kariba. Tied on second position with Highlanders, they are by far this season’s surprise package.
They have been brilliant this season, and before their 3-0 crumble at Chapungu last Wednesday, they had not lost a match, which alone is a huge achievement for the league debutants.
To hope that they would beat Dynamos and Highlanders to the title would be asking for too much from the Electricity Boys, but whatever happens between now and the end of the season, ZPC Kariba have done well.
In fact, considering the pre-season boardroom squabbles that initially threatened their participation in the league, one can safely conclude that this team has actually over-achieved.
After a long while, Caps United are this season involved in the title race.
They are fourth on the log, just two points off the leading team.
They, just like Highlanders, look like a real team with some quality players all around.
Recent additions Honey Chimutimunzeve and Nicholas Alifandika have added a new dimension to the team and the two could be what Caps need to end their decade-long title drought.
FC Platinum’s 1-0 win over Black Rhinos saw the Zvishavane side storming back into the title race as they are now on 31 points, five behind Dynamos with 30 still to play for.
Under new coach Norman Mapeza, they appear a revived side and it would be folly to write them off.
Hwange coach Nation Dube declared at the start of the season that he was gunning for the title, and true to his word, they are right in the thick of things.
They are tied on points with FC Platinum and would be hoping that the teams above them falter in the coming weeks and the trophy would be on its way to the Colliery for the first time ever.
While the race for the title is fascinating and looking like it will go right to the last round of matches, at the other end of the table, the battle for relegation survival is equally intense.
Chiredzi and Bantu Rovers appear resigned to Division One football, but the battle to avoid the other two unwanted slots has intensified.
Unless they up their game in the following weeks, Chiredzi, on 11 points, and Bantu, on 16, will be relegated, but at least four teams above these two have an equal chance of surviving or going down.
Chicken Inn are on eighth position, but with 26 points, they are just three points above a team that is sitting on the relegation cut-off point — Shabanie Mine.
Chapungu, Harare City, Triangle and How Mine know that they are not safe as yet and would like to pick as many points in the next matches.
History has shown that with 36 points, a team can survive relegation.
There is no doubt the teams in the bottom eight have set that target as their priority for the season.
It’s tight both at the top and at the bottom, and a lot of movements are expected again from both ends after this weekend’s round of fixtures.