BY Tawanda Tafirenyika
LOG leaders Caps United will be hoping to prove their championship credentials when they host high-flying Chapungu in a potentially feisty Castle Lager Premiership tie at the National Sports Stadium in Harare this afternoon.
The Harare football giants have had an explosive start to the campaign in which they are unbeaten having won five and drawn once, taking their points tally to 16.
A trip to bitter rivals Highlanders earned them a point after a goalless draw and Lloyd Chitembwe’s (pictured) men could have emerged winners of that fiery contest had their goal not been disallowed towards the end of the match.
While the Highlanders clash is often seen as one of their biggest contests on the domestic soccer calendar, in all fairness, it wasn’t a significant hurdle considering that the Bulawayo giants have been a pale shadow of their former self thus far.
Madinda Ndlovu’s men have produced lacklustre performances since the start of the campaign in which they are yet to taste victory having drawn four and lost three matches.
The spate of dreadful results have seen them drop to second from the bottom of the league with a paltry four points.
Although the encounter against Triangle, who they overcame 2-1 to register their fifth win of the campaign, was a significant hurdle in their way given that the Taurai Mangwiro-coached side defeated the Harare giants in back-to-back clashes last term, today’s contest against Chapungu is perhaps the biggest.
The Airforce side have won four, drawn once and lost only to Harare City.
The victories include a 5-0 demolition of Bulawayo Chiefs on March 30 — a 1-0 victory over Triangle at Gibbo before they overcame Hwange at the Colliery last weekend by the same score line; and that is pedigree.
It’s a marker of a team that is capable of challenging for the title. It’s a bold statement. And Caps United know if they can overcome Chapungu, it will be a massive victory for the team and supporters.
It would signal bigger things to come as it will pile pressure on other title-chasers who include Chicken Inn, ZPC Kariba and FC Platinum.
After a difficult campaign last season which saw them finishing a distant eighth in the league, Caps have already transformed from being pretenders to contenders, thanks, in no small part, to Caps United leadership and coach Chitembwe’s shrewd business on the transfer market.
The Caps United mentor believed that although the minds of some of his older players were willing, the bodies were weak.
And so he got rid of some of them to inject pace into the squad. It looks like Chitembwe had done some of the best business deals after bringing in former Highlanders winger Gabriel Nyoni as well as Phineas Bhamusi, who was recalled from Triangle, with the gaffer deliberately going for pace.
The duo has proved a handful to the teams that Caps have faced so far. There are fundamental differences between this squad and the one of last season.
The Green Machine also brought in defensive midfielder Blessing Sarupinda, who had been playing for army side Black Rhinos.
The Caps defence, which leaked like a sieve last year, has also been solidified and has conceded just two goals, a performance that has helped galvanise the midfield and frontline which has scored 11 goals thus far.
If they can secure a positive result against Chapungu today, they could be the team to beat this season.