Antipas predicts tough race

Joey Antipas

CHICKEN Inn coach Joey Antipas says the Premier League title race is shaping to be one of the ‘most interesting’ in years and has warned against ruling out any team at this moment.

The Gamecocks beat Dynamos on Sunday to remain second on the log table although they have the same number of points with leaders Manica Diamonds. Both have 12 points after five rounds of matches.

Antipas, who guided the team to their only league championship in 2016, says several teams have the potential to win the race this year.

He picked the early pacesetters, as well as Dynamos and the platinum miners FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars as his team’s main rivals for the championship.

“This year is going to be exciting and its going to be very tough because there are a lot of teams who are all in the mix,” Antipas said.

Very few points separate the teams at the top and those at the bottom, but the log table is beginning to take shape.

Herentals and Triangle are tied on 10 points while Ngezi Platinum Stars are on nine points. Defending champions FC Platinum have eight points.

Dynamos’ loss saw them tumbling down to eighth on the table with eight points, while their fellow traditional giants Caps United and Highlanders are finding the going tough.

Caps United were pummeled for six by Manica Diamonds, a result that quite summed up their campaign so far. Highlanders also lost to struggling Bulawayo Chiefs, and alarm bells are already ringing loud in their camp. The two teams currently occupy the position just above the relegation zone, with four points each.

“A team like Dynamos, you can never write them off because they did good business (in the transfer market). They have got good players and now it’s just a matter of gelling before we see Dynamos doing really well. Then there is Manica Diamonds, they are on fire, and there is also Fc Platinum and Ngezi Platinum so it’s going to be a difficult race so we will see what happens at the end of the season.”

Chicken Inn have won four of their matches so far, and Antipas says their good start to the season is down to their shrewd business in the transfer market.

“I thought we also recruited well. We filled up key areas like midfield by bringing in players like Richard Hachiro, and we have also changed our formation because we have depth. I believe players who have come on board have really helped the team. Richard has got experience as well as Malvern Hwata who is a very good player and is definitely going to be a player to watch. We also have Denzel Khumalo still to come in. He is working on his fitness. Once he is fit, he will be a vital cog in the team.”

Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya has publicly stated his team is going for the championship title this year, which may explain his disappointment when they were beaten at the weekend.

Reports suggest that he gave his players quite a tongue lashing in the dressing room following the defeat.

Next up on Dynamos’ fixture list is another difficult match, a trip to Bulawayo Chiefs on Saturday.

“That is going to be a big test again,” Ndiraya said.
Ndiraya had set his team a target to pick at least 12 points in their opening five fixtures. That didn’t happen after they lost to Triangle early in the season before drawing against FC Platinum which was followed by Sunday’s defeat.

“It is not good enough for a team which wants to fight for the championship so we need to improve in the next five games for us to really show people that we are serious title contenders. I still believe that we can really become a team in the next few games and fight hard to be amongst the top teams,” he added.

Castle Lager Premier Soccer League matchday six fixtures Saturday: Herentals v Bulawayo City (National Sports Stadium), Yadah v Manica Diamonds (Baobab), FC Platinum v Harare City (Mandava), Bulawayo Chiefs v Dynamos (Barbourfields)

Sunday: Caps United v Whawha (National Sports Stadium), Craneborne Bullets v Black Rhinos (Baobab), Tenax v Highlanders (Sakubva), Triangle v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Gibbo), Chicken Inn v ZPC Kariba (Luveve)