AFTER the Chibuku Super Cup first round games over the weekend, the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League returns this afternoon with six matches lined up across the country.
The other two fixtures, including a grudge match between league champions Dynamos and Hwange, have been set for tomorrow at Rufaro Stadium. The match had initially been advertised for Gwanzura.
Hartsfield Ground hosts three matches, including today’s double header which will see Bantu Rovers playing Harare City in a lunchtime kick-off before How Mine and Buffaloes square off soon after.
Highlanders host Triangle at the same venue tomorrow as the Bulawayo giants look to transform their recent cup form into the league.
But there is no doubt that the biggest match of today’s fixtures is the one pitting Caps United and struggling Shabanie Mine at Maglas Stadium.
Big in the sense that the result of the match has a massive bearing on the way the log table would look like at the end of day today.
A win for Caps would see them topping the log table for the next 24 hours or perhaps until the weekend. But that is if results from elsewhere go their way.
Another defeat for Shabanie Mine and they could find themselves sinking deep into the relegation fodder.
Caps United are third on the standings with 33 points, two behind joint leaders ZPC Kariba and Dynamos.
With ZPC Kariba away at Chapungu who have turned their Ascot Stadium as they are still unbeaten at this venue this season, and Dynamos getting only involved tomorrow, Caps will be hoping to take the initiative by beating Shabanie and hoping for the best.
After a slow start to the season, the Taurai Mangwiro-coached team has staged a remarkable race to the title race with some scintillating displays lately which have seen them collecting 19 points in their last nine matches to move into the top three.
Their good form was also evident last Saturday in the Chibuku Super Cup first round when they obliterated poor Chiredzi 3-0 with goals from Nicholas Alifandika, Ronald Pfumbidzai and Honey Chimutimunzeve sealing the victory.
Suddenly, the Green machine feels that they are in a good position for a league and a cup double at the end of the season.
Club assistant coach Mike Madzivanyika acknowledged Shabanie will be difficult to breakdown, but believes his team’s current momentum would carry them through.
“We have been playing well and are hoping to display our best,” Madzivanyika said.
“What is important for us is to win. We are not worrying ourselves much about calculations of where we are on the league and where we will go after the match.
“Our aim is simply to win. It will however, be difficult despite the fact that we beat them in the reverse fixture.
“The second round is completely different from the first. They might be struggling for form but they can raise their game so we still need to be cautious.”
Caps United made the trip to Zvishavane without striker Dominic Chungwa who is still nursing a groin injury which saw him missing Saturday match.
They will also be without Charles Mukanhairi through suspension.
But United still have enough quality in their squad to beat any opponent on the local friend, maybe except Dynamos.
Players such as Pfumbidzai, who scored a beauty against Chapungu, Nicholas Alifandika and Honey Chimutimunzeve, on loan from Black Mambas, have been in good form in recent weeks.
It would be folly though for Caps to underrate their opponents today, a team that is fighting with their backs on the wall.
Shabanie are 13th on the log, the relegation cut-off point. They have not won a match in their last six outings, and their season at this moment, is hanging on the balance.
However, the asbestos side can look up to players like Godknows Murwira, Allan Tavarwisa and Douglas Sibanda to help them fight relegation, starting with today’s assignment.
Meanwhile, troubled Dynamos will be hoping to put behind them the problems which have seen players boycotting training in the past week pressing for better working conditions when they face off bogey side Hwange at Gwanzura.
The striking players only returned to work on Monday, a day after their Chibuku Cup defeat to Rhinos.
The league champions still have sad memories of their last meeting with Hwange which ended in a 1-0 defeat at the Colliery and naturally they will be seeking revenge in this match.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League midweek fixtures
Today: Chapungu v ZPC Kariba (Ascot), Black Rhinos v FC Platinum (Rimuka),Bantu Rovers v Harare City (Hartsfield, 1300hrs), How Mine v Buffaloes, (Hartsfield 1500hrs), Chiredzi v Chicken Inn (Chishamiso), Shabanie Mine v Caps United (Maglas)
Tomorrow: Dynamos v Hwange (Rufaro), Highlanders v Triangle United (Hartsfield)