By Augustine Hwata
CAPS United can make a huge statement about their Castle Lager Premier League championship credentials if they can find the strength to beat leaders Highlanders in what should be an explosive tie at the National Sports Stadium today.
The big match starts at 3pm.
It’s a good football weekend for fans in the capital, with three of the biggest clubs in Zimbabwe, in terms of their support base, in action in Harare this weekend. But it’s clear that the Battle of the Cities showdown between Highlanders and CAPS United is the pick of the crop.
CAPS United will host a wounded Highlanders, who arrived in the capital yesterday, in a league match at the giant venue just 24 hours before Dynamos engage How Mine at Rufaro.
The Green Machine are the only side among the Big Three — the others being Dynamos and Highlanders — to register a victory in the mid-week matches at the resumption of the league programme.
First half goals from David Rediyoni and Moses Muchenje secured three points for a lively CAPS United, who played with spirit and style, against Hwange. Bosso fell to Chicken Inn while DeMbare were gored by Buffaloes.
Highlanders, aiming to finish the first half as leaders of the pack, have the bragging rights after winning their last two meetings against the Harare side.
CAPS United’s last victory in a league match against Highlanders came during the second round in 2011 when they sailed to a 3-1 victory in Harare through goals from Evans Gwekwerere, Pride Tafirenyika and the now retired Ashley Rambanapasi.
Graham Ncube scored for Highlanders.
In the reverse fixture at Barbourfields earlier in the year, a lone strike by Gilbert Banda gave Highlanders the advantage while last year Masimba Mambare was the nemesis for CAPS United in both their meetings.
Mambare was on target during the 1-0 win at BF during Round 14 before his brace, including a beauty, in Round 17 sunk CAPS again at Rufaro.
CAPS United coach Taurai Mangwiro believes a win over Highlanders will throw them into the hat as serious contenders for the championship as they will move within just three points of their rivals.
Their next match is also against Bosso and, hoping that they also win that one, it could be all square by the end of their back-to-back fixtures. Mangwiro said the victory over Hwange had boosted confidence in his camp ahead of the clash today where the cheapest ticket has been pegged at US$5.
“Highlanders are the leaders at the moment and we need to be at our best when you play the club that will be leading,” said Mangwiro.
“We have always said the nearer we get to the leading pack, the more conformable it will be for us in the title race.”
CAPS United are currently on 23 points, six shy of Highlanders, and today their fans could form a marriage of convenience with Dynamos, who are also eager to see Bosso’s lead kept in check.
Mangwiro knows the importance of winning big matches and keeping his team in the fight for the championship.
“On the other hand the more we are nearer to the bottom teams, the more danger for us in fighting relegation,” said Mangwiro.
“It was a positive result to beat Hwange and I hope we can maximise on our next game against Highlanders.”
CAPS United have been blowing hot and cold before the break and Mangwiro challenged his troops to start winning matches with consistency in the next round.
Goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube has been inspirational and has been rewarded with a deserved recall into the Warriors’ squad.
“It is a very crucial period, considering that we will play back to back matches,” said Mangwiro.
“But we would want to have the advantage first.
“This means we have to win at home and they will be under pressure when we play them at Barbourfields because they will be playing to catch up. I hope by then we would have reduced the gap between us and them.”
But Highlanders left-back Bruce Kangwa said Bosso will not be sitting ducks that are coming all the way from Bulawayo to donate three points. Kangwa, scorer of the crucial goal that rescued a point for Bosso against Dynamos at Rufaro last year, said they have put the defeat to Chicken Inn behind them.
“We lost against Chicken Inn in the derby and it happens in football,” said Kangwa.
“But we are now playing a new game and the aim is to collect three points.”
Highlanders coach, Kevin Kaindu, has never conceded a goal or lost a Battle of Cities clash against CAPS United. And that appears to be blowing confidence into his players.
“I am sure we should be taking the three points back to Bulawayo and nothing short of that,” said Kangwa.
“I know that all the teams usually raise their game when they are playing big teams so we should be prepared for them.”
In the other matches today, a buoyant Buffaloes face Tripple B at Dulibadzimu with coach Timothy Masachi challenging his charges to keep their heads high.
“There is a tendency to play well when we meet big teams and then lose it when we play the small teams. I hope my boys will continue from where they left in the game against Dynamos,” said Masachi. The Herald
Today: CAPS United v Highlanders (NSS), Tripple B v Buffaloes (Dulibadzimu), FC Platinum v Black Rhinos (Mandava).