THE Castle Lager Premier Soccer League action returns this weekend after a two-week midseason break, and as usual, there are some big matches to look forward to, as teams will try to make a strong finish to the league race for different reasons.
BY HENRY MHARA
Three matches are lined up for today, and in a bid to avoid a World Cup counterattraction, this afternoon’s games will kick-off a bit earlier than the usual time.
The Harare derby between hosts Harare City and Caps United, arguably the marquee tie of the weekend matches, will kick-off at 2pm, and so is the grudge clash between log leaders FC Platinum and ZPC Kariba.
Herentals’ match against Ngezi Platinum Stars has a 1.30 pm kick-off time, while all the other matches tomorrow will revert to normal starting time.
Out of the nine fixtures this weekend, it’s the City versus United tie at Rufaro Stadium this afternoon that catches the eye.
Apart from the city bragging rights on offer, these two teams would be desperate to get three points that would see them making a significant move up the log standings.
If Caps United win, they will move to third on the log standings, while a Harare City victory, could see them spending the night at fourth position.
Interestingly, City will be banking on the exploits of former Caps United material within their ranks to achieve success here.
The Sunshine Boys bench is headed by former Caps United people, with head coach Mark Harrison having coached the Green Machine not long ago.
His assistant Mark Mathe crossed the floor at the start of the season, and this will be the first time he will be facing his former paymasters he saved so well, including guiding the team in that unforgettable Caf Champions League run last year.
Star midfielder Moses Muchenje, another driving force in Caps United’s campaign in the African Safari last season, is now doing the job for City, and he is doing it perfectly well. He is one of the outstanding midfielders in the season this far.
City skipper Tendai Samanja is a former Caps United star, and if he can pass a fitness test after suffering an ankle injury in the team’s last game before the break, he will be looking to combine with Muchenje to throw one back at their former team.
United coach Lloyd Chitembwe has set the target of winning all their remaining matches to stand a chance of winning the title. For Harrison, he has set himself a modest target. He wants to reach the 40 point mark, and with 28 points already in the bag, he is almost there.
In Zvishavane, FC Platinum host a rejuvenated ZPC Kariba, looking to continue with their winning streak. The log leaders are unbeaten since a shock defeat to Bulawayo Chiefs in April, and since then, they have dropped just two points in the 10 matches they went on to play.
They have won their last six matches on the bounce, a run that has seen them overtaking rivals Ngezi Platinum to open a six-point gap at the top.
The return fixture of this match failed to take off after ZPC Kariba failed to pitch up at the match venue.
Tomorrow, Dynamos host Chicken In in the headliner match of the day, with the Harare giants hoping to continue with their revival after a dismal start to the season.
They won their last two matches, but that was against Nichrut and Mutare City. Chicken Inn presents Lloyd Mutasa’s men with a genuine test, and if they can pass this one, talk of a crisis at the club will briefly go away.
Castle Lager Fixtures
Tomorrow: Harare City v CAPS United (Rufaro, 2pm), FC Platinum v ZPC Kariba (Mandava, 2pm), Herentals v Ngezi Platinum Stars (NSS, 1.30pm)
Sunday: Mutare City Rovers v Nichrut (Vengere), Dynamos v Chicken Inn (Rufaro), Black Rhinos v Highlanders (NSS), Bulawayo Chiefs v Yadah (Luveve), Triangle United v Shabanie Mine (Gibbo), Chapungu v Bulawayo City (Ascot). All matches start at 3pm.