2018 PSL season explodes

HARARE - Football fans across the country are hoping for another entertainment-filled campaign as the eagerly-awaited 2018 Castle Lager Premiership season finally gets underway this afternoon.

Just like in the previous years, this season appears unpredictable while promising sheer entertainment for supporters and neutrals alike, considering most of the usual suspects are all looking geared for the challenge.

Defending champions FC Platinum might have struggled in the Champions League but a league is normally a marathon and when one looks at the strengths and depth of each of the title contenders, there is no doubt their name keeps popping up.

The platinum miners found the going tough in their second appearance in the Champions League after being knocked out in the preliminary round by Angolan champions Desportivo Primero Agosto.

FC Platinum were beaten 3-0 in Luanda in the first leg before succumbing to a 1-2 home defeat at Mandava Stadium in the return leg.

But this afternoon, the reigning champions will begin their title defence with a date against ZPC Kariba at the National Sports Stadium.

FC Platinum, who retained most of their players from last season while adding few new faces, will begin the season without their coach Norman Mapeza, who suffered a back injury during a gym session in January and underwent a successful surgery earlier this month.

And with Mapeza, who is expected to be out for at least six months, recovering at his home in Harare, attention quickly falls on his assistant Lizwe Sweswe, who has since declared that his charges are ready to begin their title defence.

“I know how hard it is to stand in the big shoes of my boss (Mapeza) but it is what it is. We have since accepted it and we now need to take the team forward,” Sweswe told the Daily News earlier this week.

“We have been together for a while now and it’s only a continuation of what we have been doing before with coach Mapeza.

“So yes, I am ready and looking forward to the challenges that come with the game at this top level.

“We are now ready to take off. We have been working hard lately and we are looking forward to the start of the season.

“The boys are looking good, the combinations and fitness levels have improved greatly so I think we are good to go.

“It’s always good to start on a positive note. Remember we are the champions and we are working towards retaining our title. Of course, we are in a difficult league and it’s not going to be an easy task for us.

“So we just need to keep on working hard.”

Elsewhere, Harare giants Dynamos are hoping for a strong start to their campaign when they visit Chicken Inn at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.

“Lloyd Mutasa’s charges believe they can launch a serious challenge for the title this year after they were pipped to last year’s title by eventual winners FC Platinum.

“And in their bid to fight for the title DeMbare bolstered their squad by bringing in Raphael Manuvire, James Marufu and Marvellous Mukumba among others giving Mutasa hope of a fruitful year.

“I think we have to start positively, we have to start on a high for us to shape our season.

“Winning such a game will always be a morale booster going into the next matches,” Mutasa told the Daily News.

“We know the challenge that is on our hands but that is the reason we have been bracing ourselves all along.

“We believe we have done enough preparations and we would want to give our supporters reason to have faith in the team.”

On their match against Chicken Inn, Mutasa said: “It’s not going to be an easy match for us. Chicken Inn is a strong opponent and they would not make it easy for us.

“We need to work really hard if we are to come up with a positive result. But we would really want to start on a winning note.”

In other matches set for this afternoon, Ngezi Platinum Stars welcome new boys Herentals at Baobab Stadium, hoping for a positive start.

Ngezi have been active on the transfer market bolstering their squad for the new campaign.

After finishing third last season behind FC Platinum and Dynamos, Ngezi are hoping to launch a sustainable title challenge this season and have retained the services of senior players such as Walter Mukanga, Tichaona Mabvura and Godknows Murwira

The Mhondoro-Ngezi platinum miners unveiled midfield hardman Tichaona Chipunza, who joined from Dynamos, goalkeepers Tatenda Munditi who was with Harare City and Bernard Donovan who came from How Mine among others.

Bulawayo City host Chapungu at Luveve Stadium while newly- promoted side Nichrut host PSL returnees Mutare City at Mandava Stadium.

Nichrut are temporarily using Mandava as their home ground after Ascot Stadium was considered unfit by First Instance Body (FIB) to host PSL matches.

Yadah will be home against newboys Bulawayo Chiefs at Rufaro Stadium.

Today: Bulawayo City v Chapungu (Luveve Stadium), Ngezi Platinum v Herentals (Baobab Stadium), ZPC Kariba v FC Platinum (National Sports Stadium), Nichrut v Mutare City (Mandava Stadium), Yadah v Bulawayo Chiefs (Rufaro Stadium), Chicken Inn v Dynamos (Barbourfields Stadium)
Tomorrow: Highlanders v Black Rhinos (Barbourfields Stadium), Shabanie Mine v Triangle United (Mandava Stadium), CAPS United v Harare City (National Sports Stadium)