By Ricky Zililo
The three Castle Lager Premier Soccer League championship chasing sides, leaders Caps United, Chicken Inn and defending champions FC Platinum, will be involved in tricky derbies this weekend as the race moves to the wire.
It will be a real test of character for the title-chasing sides, as derbies tend to be unpredictable.
Bragging rights are always at the core of derbies and that’s what brews excitement in such encounters.
Action starts tomorrow, with relegation fighting Bulawayo Chiefs, known for their giant killing acts, taking on Chicken Inn at Luveve Stadium. On Sunday, FC Platinum are involved in a Midlands derby against Chapungu at Ascot Stadium in Gweru.
The biggest derby is no doubt the clash between Harare rivals, Caps United and Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Caps United top the league table with 55 points from 31 games and have been blowing hot and cold, a condition they can’t afford to display against Dynamos, who are unbeaten in 20 games, as they angle for a top four finish.
DeMbare are fifth with 44 points, two points behind fourth-placed ZPC Kariba, who take on Triangle United at Gibbo Stadium.
Caps United surrendered a two-goal lead last weekend to draw 2-2 against relegation-threatened Yadah, while Dynamos drew 0-0 with army side, Black Rhinos.
Matches between Caps United and Dynamos have always produced fireworks, and with the former having “wished” DeMbare to be relegated last season, the blue army might spoil Makepekepe’s title charge.
In the first-leg, the two sides drew 1-1, but a draw would be like a loss for Caps United, as Chicken Inn and FC Platinum are breathing heavily on their neck, waiting for a chance to pounce.
Caps United will bank on arguably their best player this season midfielder Joel Ngodzo, utility player Valentine Ndaba, defensive midfielder Dominic Mukandi and forwards Dominic Chungwa and John Zhuwawu to lead them against their old foes.
Dynamos’ hope will be pinned on young goalkeeper, Simba Chinani, right-back Emmanuel Jalai, midfielder Kudzanai Dhemere, strikers Ngandu Mangala and Evans Katema.
Chicken Inn registered a disappointing 1-1 draw against lowly-placed Hwange last weekend, and will be hoping to get the better of Bulawayo Chiefs, who are smarting from a 1-0 defeat away to Manica Diamonds.
Chiefs and Chicken Inn are meeting for the third time since the former gained promotion into the Premiership. Last season, Chicken Inn won the first-leg 2-0 before losing the reverse fixture 1-0. Their first encounter this year was claimed by the Gamecocks in a 2-0 score line.
With both teams in desperate need for the three points — for Chicken Inn to aid their title fight and for Chiefs to escape relegation —nothing short of a thriller should be on display at Luveve Stadium.
In Gweru, Chapungu will be looking for their first ever win over FC Platinum in the league.
The two Midlands sides have faced each other 11 times in the league, with FC Platinum winning eight the other three ending in stalemates.
Defending the title and the possibility of keeping the PSL cup for good as well as earning another ticket to the Caf Champions League could be driving FC Platinum not to lose hope and keep fighting.
On their last three visits to Gweru, FC Platinum won all games by identical 2-0 score lines.
Chapungu are just four points above the relegation zone with 39 points thus are not out of the woods yet, as they are only four points above Chiefs, who occupy the last relegation slot.
Tomorrow: Bulawayo Chiefs v Chicken Inn (Luveve), Harare City v Yadah (Rufaro)
Sunday: Black Rhinos v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Rufaro), Caps United v Dynamos (National Sports Stadium), Mushowani Stars v TelOne (Trojan Mine), Hwange v Herentals (Colliery), Triangle United v ZPC Kariba (Gibbo), Highlanders v Manica Diamonds (Barbourfields), Chapungu v FC Platinum (Ascot)
P W D L F A GD Pts
Caps United 31 16 8 7 50 38 12 55
Chicken Inn 31 15 8 8 42 24 18 53
FC Platinum 31 14 11 6 31 15 16 53
ZPC Kariba 31 11 10 9 28 25 3 46
Dynamos 31 9 17 5 27 23 4 44
Ngezi Platinum 31 11 11 9 25 21 4 44
Black Rhinos 31 11 10 10 26 28 -2 43
Highlanders 31 9 15 7 27 23 4 42
Manica Diamonds 31 10 11 10 32 32 0 41
Chapungu 31 9 12 9 30 28 2 39
Triangle United 30 10 7 13 37 40 -3 37
Harare City 31 10 7 14 32 36 -6 37
TelOne 31 7 15 9 27 30 -3 36
Herentals 31 6 17 8 27 30 -3 35
Bulawayo Chiefs 31 9 8 14 29 42 -13 35
Hwange 30 7 12 11 24 33 -9 33
Yadah 31 7 11 13 28 44 -16 32
Mushowani Stars 31 7 9 15 32 42 -10 30