AFTER a two-week break due to cup games, normal service resumes in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) this weekend with three blockbuster ties.
And it promises to be a cracking round of fixtures too with things heating up at both ends of the log table now that the season is fast approaching the business end.
League champions Dynamos, who are looking for their fourth straight league title, still sit at the top with 42 points, three better than Highlanders, while ZPC Kariba and Caps United closely follow at 38 with eight games remaining.
At the other end, Chiredzi FC are bottom with 11 points from 22 matches – that is relegation form whichever one may look at it — while Bantu Rovers, who are on 17 points have one leg in Division One as well. They will need to collect as much points as possible in their remaining matches and hope that results elsewhere go their way.
Shabanie Mine and Black Rhinos complete the teams in the unwanted zone, but the bottom half is so congested so much that eighth-placed Buffaloes, with their 30 points, are not yet safe from relegation.
Recent history has shown that a team that reaches the magical 36-point mark would not be relegated and there is no doubt that all teams in the bottom eight have set that tally as their season target.
At the top, the race for the title continues to be intriguing and as was in the last three terms, promises to go all the way to the last day of the season.
Dynamos are on top at the moment, but there is no doubt that position will change a few hands in the coming weeks before being finally decided in November.
Those changes at the top could actually happen as soon as this afternoon with two matches of the week involving the top teams on the table Dynamos and Highlanders dominating today’s match day programme before Caps United face How Mine tomorrow.
Dynamos travel to face FC Platinum in what should be a fierce contest and Mandava Stadium is sure to be rocking come 1500hrs as both teams cannot afford to lose this one.
The league champions have not lost a match since that 1-0 slip-up at Hwange in June and picked up 10 points out of 12 in their last four matches, championship-winning form by any standards.
Coach Kalisto Pasuwa knows that he will need to build on that recent form with some consistent performances going forward.
His team has been brilliant in the last few weeks, particularly the rejuvenated Simba Sithole and Tafadzwa Rusike on either wings, while the man for such big occasions Rodreck Mutuma should be licking his lips.
Themba Ndlovu is suspended for Dynamos, but that should not pose much headache for Pasuwa, who has the towering Sydney Linyama available, while utility player Thomas Magorimbo has played in that position before without any problem.
FC Platinum were the biggest winners in the two weeks when the league was on pause. They used that break to win themselves the ZNA Charities Shield after thumping Caps United 6-0 a fortnight ago before progressing to the semi-finals of the Chibuku Super Cup.
The Norman Mapeza-coached side would be looking to build on that form in the league where they have been awful, losing to Highlanders and Triangle before the break.
Mapeza’s history against Dynamos is also not at all impressive with just one win in three meetings he had with the Harare giants while he was still coach at 2008 champions Monomotapa, thus the visitors should begin the match as favourites.
Dynamos’ last league trip to Mandava in 2013 ended in a 2-0 midweek loss while this year, in Harare, they have had to do with a last-gasp controversial penalty to win 1-0.
After a 0-0 league draw at home to Buffaloes which was followed up by a 4-1 thumping at the hands of Dynamos in the TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup final, a result bettered by the 3-1 Chibuku Super Cup quarter-final triumph over How Mine last week, Highlanders will be desperate to bounce back when they travel to Harare City.
Bosso’s cause has been made a little difficult as they have two key players Dumisani Ndlovu and Simon Munawa suspended for the match.
The good news for the Kelvin Kaindu-coached side, however, is that Pascal Manhanga, who has been one of the team’s best players in recent weeks, is back from suspension and should give City some problems this afternoon, together with new boys Tapiwa Dephistara and Webster Chingodza.
The reverse fixture went in the way of Highlanders, who won 1-0, and City coach Masimba Dinyero, who is yet to lose at home in four attempts since taking over, said he was looking to avenge that result.
Harare City have been affected by suspension too with Benson Maglasi set to miss the game.
Highlanders cannot just afford to lose this one. If ZPC Kariba and Caps United win, a loss would leave Bosso in fourth position on the log and possibly six points adrift of Dynamos, which could be a telling difference at this stage of the season.