Chitembwe calm as title looms

HARARE - After a two-week break, Castle Lager Premiership title-chasing CAPS United, FC Platinum and Highlanders resume their battle this weekend.

As things stand, Makepekepe hold all the aces as they currently enjoy a two-point lead over second-placed FC Platinum.

With only two games to go before the season ends, Lloyd Chitembwe’s side virtually have one hand on the league trophy.

The last time United celebrated a league title was some 11 years ago and since then, they have come short.

However this season, Makepekepe have overcome immense obstacles, including player boycotts over outstanding salaries and allowances to find themselves on the threshold of glory.

This weekend, United face a high-flying Ngezi Platinum Stars, who are still basking in the glory of their Chibuku Super Cup triumph.

The last time the two teams met, Makepekepe were on course for a 1-0 win at Baobab Stadium before the platinum miners scored a late equaliser.  

Although all the smart money will be on CAPS winning the league due to the advantage they carry going into these last two matches, Chitembwe is fully aware that a mammoth task awaits his side.

“One thing for sure is that there is still a long way to go; we are talking of 180 minutes of football still to be played,” Chitembwe told the Daily News.

“These games have proved to be difficult matches for us ever since we started the season and we don’t expect anything less in the remaining two matches.

“I hope we will continue working hard the same way we have been doing in the 28 matches that we have played so far. The good thing is that the players seem to have the belief and it’s very encouraging, especially from a coach’s point of view.

“For now, I think it will be best for us if we take it one game at a time. It always brings a good feeling to be in the title race but what is important is to win your games. So we are not looking beyond the Ngezi Platinum match.”

The former Makepekepe midfielder does not think the international break had a negative effect on his side. 

“I don’t think the break has affected us only. All the teams were on break and they have been affected as well. In any case, I think the break has helped some of our injured players to return back to full fitness,” he said.

“We are happy all the players are fit and looking forward to the match.”

As for FC Platinum, they now really have a tough task to cover CAPS’ lead as they now face Highlanders this weekend at Mandava Stadium.

Norman Mapeza’s side go into this match on the back of their Chibuku Super Cup final defeat to Ngezi Platinum two weeks ago.

It is going to be difficult for Mapeza to psyche up his side for this match considering their recent results.

The last time Pure Platinum played in front of their home fans it did not end well. FC Platinum fans turned against Mapeza following the side’s 1-1 draw with Ngezi in a league game. 

Highlanders have enjoyed a stellar 2016 season under Dutch coach Erol Akbay.

When Akbay took over at the start of the year, not many people gave Bosso a chance of having a say in the title race.

They were expected to struggle after losing some key players while at the same time Akbay needed to find his feet in order to acclimatise to the local league.

Bosso played some scintillating football this season and were firmly in the title race until the round when their seven-game winning streak was halted by relegation-threatened Tsholotsho.

Still with a slim chance of winning the league, the Bulawayo giants will definitely bring their A game to Mandava — a

venue where they have always enjoyed playing at.

However, the Highlanders boat was rocked earlier this week when the Zimbabwe Football Association president Philip Chiyangwa suspended Bosso chairperson Peter Dube while CEO Ndumiso Gumede was expelled from all football activities.

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