HIGHLANDERS are hoping to return to their faltering Castle Lager Premier Soccer League campaign refreshed and reinvigorated after a couple of months to forget.
At the halfway stage of this campaign, they looked to be coasting the title, yet with five matches to go, their chances of taking it home hang by a thin thread.
They will try to breathe life into their ailing campaign with a win against Caps United, who themselves are also enduring a nightmarish season fighting for survival rather than silverware.
That these two teams have had their struggles and want to earn some form of respect makes their match at Barbourfields tomorrow one to look forward to.
Having gone 19 matches unbeaten, they lost their way, winning just one of what followed.
Caps, on the other hand, were hoping to end the season with the Chibuku Super Cup, but they were convincingly outplayed by Dynamos and were eventually booted out, leaving them with nothing but a bit of pride to play for.
Before last week’s break for the Cup competition, Highlanders were away to city neighbours Bulawayo Chiefs and the two sides shared the spoils in a goalless draw at Emagumeni.
They are now on position four on the table with 48 points, nine behind Ngezi and coach Baltemar Brito is hopeful of a good finish in the last five matches, having surrendered on the race for the league title.
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Brito says the short break was good for his boys.
“We are in a different part of the season and more importantly is training and coming up with good connections among the players. They have to be fresh and happy and be motivated to face the last five matches. We cannot complain, the players are smiling and doing their best, but unfortunately, the result did not come in the last match,” Brito said.
“This time around, what has been more important than training is to have the players fresh and with fresh minds also. It was good, not for training but for refreshing the players, for creating new motivation because after that not so good result it was good to refresh the mind. The players are confident of the last five games. Everyone will do his best to finish in a good position on the log.”
The Bulawayo giants welcome back striker Calvin Chigonero from injury, but will still have vice-captain Peter Muduhwa out due to a four-match ban on the Warriors’ defender.
Their strikers have been lethargic in front of goal, with most of the 20 goals scored coming from set-pieces and for a team that has been vying for the title, it’s astonishing that they are 18 goals behind Ngezi, 17 behind second-placed Manica Diamonds, while third-placed Dynamos is 13 goals ahead of Highlanders.
The schedule is tight as they face the Green Machine and will travel to Gibbo Stadium to face Triangle on Thursday before returning to the City of Kings and Queens for Herentals at BF on Sunday.
Caps United have been on a roll in the league in their last four games, where they beat Hwange, Sheasham and Simba Bhora, but drew with Cranborne Bullets and that streak saw them ease their relegations woes.
But the Lloyd Chitembwe-coached Makepekepe also have a taxing fixture ahead as after tomorrow, they will return home to host Bulawayo Chiefs at the National Sports Stadium on Thursday before taking another trip to Chisumbanje for the Green Fuel contest.
With some teams at the top continuing to drop points, the Green Machine can finish the season with a maximum of 52 points to end the campaign in a respectable position if they can make a perfect run.
Chitembwe is on record saying he enjoys the carnival ambience at Barbourfields Stadium, which motivates his players.