THE Zvishavane derby takes centre stage in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League this weekend, with FC Platinum looking to be crowned league champions at the home of their town rivals, Shabanie Mine.
BY HENRY MHARA
FC Platinum just need to avoid defeat on Sunday to successfully defend the title, with two games to spare.
The Norman Mapeza-coached side is nine points clear of their nearest challengers, Ngezi Platinum Stars, with three games to play.
So even if they lose the Zvishavane derby, which is unlikely considering the two teams’ present form, the league leaders can still clinch the title if Ngezi Platinum Stars fail to win at home against Bulawayo Chiefs on the same day.
Currently on 71 points, a draw for Mapeza’s men would see them reach an unassailable 72 points, as Ngezi can only finish with a maximum points total of 71.
For Ngezi to snatch the title, they will need to win all their remaining three matches, including the two teams’ clash next week and hope that the log leaders also lose their other two matches.
Strange things have happened in football before, but it would take the boldest to bet against FC Platinum getting a point they need against basement and already relegated Shabanie Mine to win the title this weekend.
While it is almost certain on who will be crowned champions on Sunday, the battle for survival, at the other end of the table, is still wide open, with at least eight teams battling to avoid the last relegation slot.
Shabanie Mine, Mutare City Rovers and Bulawayo City have already been confirmed relegated, and thus the battle to avoid the last demotion slot is also hotting up.
But just like the championship race, the remaining team to be relegated might also be confirmed this weekend.
Nichrut, currently occupying the unwanted spot, can be demoted if they lose at home to Herentals on Saturday, and Chapungu, Yadah, Bulawayo Chiefs, Dynamos and ZPC Kariba win their matches.
The Shurugwi-based side have 33 points, and can only finish with a maximum 42 points, so their only chance of survival is to win all their remaining matches and hope that one of the relegation rivals drop points.
Chapungu, at 37 points, need to win two of their remaining three matches to be sure, while Bulawayo Chiefs and Yadah, tied on 38 points, need extra four points each from a possible 12.
Dynamos have 40 points and could confirm their safety with a win over Triangle on Sunday, the same side that outclassed them in the Chibuku Super Cup semis at the weekend, while ZPC Kariba require two points from their remaining three matches to be sure.
Black Rhinos are on 42 points and mathematically can still be demoted, though it looks unlikely.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Match Day 32 fixtures
Saturday: Yadah v Bulawayo City (Rufaro), ZPC Kariba v Chapungu (Nyamhunga), Chicken Inn v Black Rhinos (Luveve), Nichrut v Herentals (Ascot)
Sunday: Highlanders v Harare City (Barbourfields), Mutare City Rovers v Caps United (Vengere), Shabanie Mine v FC Platinum (Maglas), Dynamos v Triangle United (Rufaro), Ngezi Platinum Stars v Bulawayo Chiefs (Baobab)