WITH the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title race arguably the closest and fiercely contested in the league’s recent history, Dynamos, Highlanders, ZPC Kariba, Caps United and perhaps Hwange are down to just nine games to show that they are worthy of winning the trophy.
Defending champions Dynamos have their nose in front as the teams head to the business end of the season and of the five teams vying for the title, they appear to have the best run-in of them all.
But their tendency to drop points against the so called smaller teams might spoil their fun at the end of the season.
The Kalisto Pasuwa-coached side who scrapped a hugely important 2-1 away win at Triangle would be pleased by their remaining fixture list, with only a handful of big teams yet to play.
Next up for Dynamos is a home match against relegation strugglers Chiredzi United and after the weekend One Wallet Cup hiatus; they travel to FC Platinum, which will be a huge game for both sides.
The “away” match against ZPC Kariba, the second from the last round of the matches, is the last top-five test for Dynamos.
They host How Mine in the penultimate game of the season, and considering that seven of their remaining fixtures will be played in the capital, Pasuwa will surely fancy his side for a fourth straight title.
Second-positioned Highlanders have a tremendously difficult run of games ahead, and it will take a monumental effort from them to win the title.
Bosso host Buffaloes with an away fixture against Harare City straight after for the Kelvin Kaindu side. This fixture last season ended in a 4-0 humiliation for Bosso, and ultimately cost them the title.
Arguably the two most important games for Bosso in the run in would follow immediately with the club hosting ZPC Kariba before travelling to Caps United – two teams also in the title race.
The sight of an away fixture against Hwange later in the season only adds to the awkwardness of Highlanders’ upcoming fixtures.
And if the Bulawayo giants are to break their eight year-long heartbreak in the league, they will have to prove it by negotiating this hugely testing fixture list.
Most local football followers thought ZPC Kariba would fall away at some stage in the season, but they are beginning to take the electricity boys serious now.
Just nine games to go and they are still second on the log and in a very good position to emulate Monomotapa’s 2008 triumphant squad.
However, just like Highlanders, their run in appears unfavourable.
Two away fixtures against Highlanders and FC Platinum still to come and they will be hoping that by the time they face the three Harare sides Harare City, Dynamos and Caps United in its penultimate matches, they would still be in the top four.
After beating Chapungu at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday, a result that kept Caps United within a touching distance of the leading teams, their coach Taurai Mangwiro declared his team has a very good chance of clinching the title because they are still to face some of the title contenders.
Yes, it could be a blessing but can also be very detrimental too. Getting maximum points in the crucial matches against Highlanders, FC Platinum and then against ZPC Kariba on the last day of the season would be crucial for Caps, but dropping points in those and the rivals would certainly capitalise.
Fifth-placed Hwange are the dark horses in this race. They are on 34 points, five behind leaders Dynamos with 27 still to fight for.
They have a decent run of games, with winnable matches against the likes of Shabanie Mine, Chapungu and Triangle.
But it is against the likes of Highlanders, Black Rhinos and FC Platinum that their task of getting maximum points does not appear straightforward.
Top 5 teams remaining 9 fixtures
Dynamos: Chiredzi (H), FC Platinum (A), Shabanie Mine (H), Buffaloes (A), Chapungu (H), Harare City (A), Bantu Rovers (H), ZPC Kariba (A), How Mine (H).
Highlanders: Buffaloes (H), Harare City (A), ZPC Kariba (H), Caps United (A), Chicken Inn (H), Hwange (A), Chiredzi (H), Shabanie Mine (A), Chapungu (H).
ZPC Kariba: How Mine (A), Black Rhinos (H), Highlanders (A), Triangle (H), FC Platinum (A), Buffaloes (H), Harare City (A), Dynamos (H), Caps United (H).
Caps United: Bantu Rovers (A), How Mine (H), Black Rhinos (A), Highlanders (H), Triangle (A), FC Platinum (H), Buffaloes (A), Harare City (H), ZPC Kariba (A)
Hwange: Shabanie Mine (A), Chapungu (H), Bantu Rovers (A), How Mine (H), Black Rhinos (A), Highlanders (H), Triangle (A), FC Platinum (H), Buffaloes (A).