BY HENRY MHARA
THE 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season has been a fascinating title race, with at least four teams taking turns at the top of the log table.
Two other teams have fallen by the wayside and it has come down to this blockbuster winner takes all clash between second-placed Caps United and champions FC Platinum, who go into the match sitting at the top.
This is the first time in the history of the rebranded Premier Soccer League that the title race has been decided in this manner.
The setting is at the National Sports Stadium.
FC Platinum, looking to win the title for a third straight year, will go into the battle this afternoon as favourites by virtue of being on top of the log standings, as well as needing just to avoid defeat.
They lead Caps by a point going into the title decider.
The Zvishavane-based side thrust themselves on the brink after beating Black Rhinos 1-0 at Mandava Stadium on a day Caps were beaten by Ngezi Platinum Stars, in a defeat that put a huge dent in their aspirations.
The mid-week results involving the two championship hopefuls have got us here, a grand finale to what has been an odd race.
It is in FC Platinum’s hands at the moment after their mid-week win.
“We have an advantage, so we must not put so much pressure on ourselves,” FC Platinum coach Lizwe Sweswe said.
“We have been in this situation twice before (fighting for the title), and I hope that we remain focused, keep calm and concentrate on our game. Any slip up will inflict pain on us. We have to be at our best and remain mindful of the fact that we are playing away.”
For Caps, they made their life difficult with a defeat in Mhondoro Ngezi. Now they need an outright win to win the title.
But what is even more worrying for their coach Darlington Dodo is the manner in which the team capitulated on Wednesday.
Caps where in shambles for the better part of the match and only came to life in the last 10 minutes where they managed to score two goals for a respectable 3-2 scoreline.
It appeared that the players suffered under the weight of expectations and Dodo admitted they failed to handle pressure very well.
It will be interesting to see how they will perform in this one, considering the stakes are even higher.
“We will manage it (pressure). I know we will do the right thing come Saturday (today),” Dodo said.
Both teams have injury worries going into what is their most important fixture of the season.
Lawrence Mhlanga who picked a knock against Rhinos is a major doubt.
Caps’ shambolic performance in mid-week was blamed on the absence of key players in defence.
Lincoln Zvasiya, who hobbled off in the last match with a hamstring problem has not recovered.
The defender has been ruled out of the match. Zvasiya’s centreback partner Justice Jangano did not travel to Mhondoro, and the Caps medical team yesterday said the defender would have to pass a late fitness test to participate.
Captain Valentine Musarurwa also failed to last the distance in Mhondoro.
He trained with the team on Thursday and is also expected to pass a late fitness test to feature.
With Method Mwanjale out for the season as well as Kudzanai Nyamupfukudza, who has also played in defence in times of difficulty, Dodo has a huge problem on his hands.
But whoever he thrusts into his defensive structures, fans are guaranteed a match to savour and an epic ending to what has been a fairy tale season.
Week 34 fixtures
Today: Caps United v FC Platinum (National Sports Stadium), Chicken Inn v TelOne (Barbourfields), Triangle v Dynamos (Gibbo), Chapungu v Highlanders (Ascot), Mushowani Stars v Yadah (Trojan), Hwange v ZPC Kariba (Colliery), Harare City v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Rufaro), Bulawayo Chiefs v Herentals (Luveve).
Tomorrow: Black Rhinos v Manica Diamonds (National Sports Stadium)