BY FORTUNE MBELE
HIGHLANDERS have been hit by a bout of flu ahead of the Bulawayo derby featuring the city giants and early title contenders Chicken Inn.
The potential Castle Lager Premier Soccer League thriller is slated for Sunday at Barbourfields Stadium.
The tie comes as Highlanders return home to Emagumeni after an ill-fated league match against champions FC Platinum which was abandoned in the dying minutes at Mandava Stadium last Saturday after the visitors’ fans invaded the pitch in protest over a penalty awarded to the hosts in the 82nd minute.
The match was called off with the score line level at 1-1. The police had to fire teargas to disperse the unruly fans.
Coach Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu said apart from the flu bug that is lingering in the camp, some players had been affected by tear smoke.
Assistant coach Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu failed to travel to Zvishavane because of the flu which also saw midfielder Devine Mhindirira being pulled out at half time.
“We are just a little bit worried because there were some forced substitutions when we played FC Platinum. There is an outbreak of flu within the team,” Mpofu said.
“As you are aware, our assistant coach Beke could not travel to Zvishavane. He was down with flu and it also affected Devine on Saturday and he could not last the journey (game). He only played 45 minutes and was out, but I am happy he is back, he started training yesterday.”
The gaffer is also concerned about the possible unavailability of vice-captain Nqobizitha Masuku and striker Stanley Ngala who have not been training.
Mpofu reckons their situation could have been exacerbated by the teargas last Saturday.
The duo has not trained this week.
“Another worry is Masuku and Stanley. They might start training today (yesterday) if all goes well. They are also down with flu, but these two I think it was the after effects of the teargas. They were terribly affected,” Mpofu said.
“So we might face this big game without our star players, but I hope whoever will be selected to do duty will do well. We are clear of our intentions. There is no excuse on Sunday, we need those three points.”
Midfilder Adrian Silla has a sore throat and Mpofu is hopeful that the COVID-19 tests, to be done today, would not ground his side.
Defender Andrew Mbeba is ruled out of the match against Chicken Inn after sustaining a shoulder injury against FC Platinum last week.
- Follow Fortune on Twitter @fmbele