CAPS United will look to put two weeks of turmoil behind them and focus on progressing to the semi-finals of the Chibuku Super Cup when they travel to Mandava Stadium for a quarter-final match against hosts FC Platinum this afternoon.
The football match, which will kick-off at 1500hrs would be the second of the Chibuku Super Cup quarter-final double-header at this venue with the contest between Harare City and Chiredzi FC opening the proceedings at lunch, both matches being broadcast live on SuperSport.
The Green Machine camp has been battling a crisis in the last two weeks caused by protesting players pressing for their outstanding salaries and bonuses owed as far back as July.
Last week’s 6-0 annihilation at the hands of this afternoon’s opponents in the ZNA Charities Shield final at the same venue, was a mirror of the problems that were wrecking the camp.
But things returned to normal on Thursday night when the club’s management managed to secure funds to offset part of the outstanding salaries and allowances.
The club confirmed that they had managed to pay the players full salaries for August and they had promised to settle the balance from June any time soon.
With the flames doused, the team will no doubt be looking for a fresh start this afternoon in a match that offers them a realistic chance of winning some silverware this season.
“I don’t want to comment on the off-field problems because it’s the management’s responsibility, but I can safely say that the players’ morale has improved significantly,” said Caps United assistant coach Mike Madzivanyika yesterday.
“We have prepared well for this match and psychologically I think we are ready. We lost to the same opponents last week, but we are not worried much about that result. This is a new game and there are new strategies for every game so they (FC Platinum) should get prepared for what is in store for them this time around,” added Madzivanyika.
Asked if his team was taking this encounter as a revenge match and an opportunity to redeem themselves after last week’s disaster, Madzivanyika said: “Not at all. We were obviously devastated by that result, but we have moved on and I can say we are over that. Like I said, this is a new game and the best team on the day will win. We are going to play to our best ability and try to win the match.”
Caps United are currently fourth on the Premier Soccer League table with 38 points, four off the pace with just eight games remaining and are already out of the One Wallet Cup.
Together with Highlanders, they are the only remaining “giants” left in the Chibuku Cup and will be looking to muscle their way through to the final.
“This is a cup competition and there are no big teams. Results are very unpredictable. We will have to be at our best, take each match at a time to get to the next stage,” said Madzivanyika.
Caps United will make the trip without two influential players Moses Muchenje and David Chipala who have knee problems, but Madzivanyika said his team has able replacements. He can bank on Hardlife Zvirekwi, Tendai Samanja and Gerald Phiri.
After last week’s big win, FC Platinum will begin the match as huge favourites. However, coach Norman Mapeza is taking a reticent approach to the match.
“It is not going to be easy. We don’t want to read too much into what happened last week. It’s now water under the bridge and we are taking this match seriously. The ambition is there to go all the way in this tournament, but we leave it in God’s hands,” said Mapeza, who has Obrey Chirwa, Aaron Katebe and Qadr Amin at his disposal.
While this is the match that would hold much interest today, it is Harare City and Chiredzi FC who will get the Chibuku Super Cup quarter-final proceedings underway at lunch. Harare City are currently enjoying a purple patch in their season and would look at this fixture against a struggling Chiredzi side as very winnable.
But the Lowveld side, who currently anchor the league table, would want to prove that they earned their spot in the last eight of the competition. They defeated Buffaloes in the previous round and they would be looking to brew another shocker, and possibly win a trophy in what is turning to be a nightmarish season for them.
The Chibuku Super Cup action will then move to Bulawayo tomorrow when troubled Highlanders entertain How Mine at Hartsfield in a Bulawayo derby.
Rejuvenated Black Rhinos and Triangle will then lock horns at Ascot Stadium on Monday to conclude what promises to be an exciting three-day football fiesta.
Winners of the trophy are set to walk away with $75 000 while losing finalists will take home $50 000. The two losing semi-finalists will each pocket $25 000 while teams that get knocked out at the quarter-final stage will walk away $20 000 richer. The teams that were knocked out of the competition in first round are guaranteed $15 000 each.