By Sheldon Hakata
THE battle for survival in the 2018 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League reaches fever pitch this weekend with teams at the bottom of the log pulling all stops to garner maximum points.
With time running out for several teams in the bottom half of the log, this weekend’s fixtures mark the beginning of what promises to be a bruising battle to avoid the dreaded chop.
There are only 13 matches left.
And there are teams that are in danger despite not losing matches in the second half of the season, such as Harare City.
The team has picked too many draws in their few matches and the prospect of being relegated, despite losing fewer matches, is looming large for Harare City.
Mark Harrison’s side has had a stunning record of draws this year and this could be costly for their final tally.
They have recorded 11 draws so far, the highest in the Premiership after 21 games in the season.
And the negative side for Harare City’s record of draws is that they are now four draws away from equaling their own record of the highest number of draws in a season.
However, Harrison’s charges have done themselves a favour by avoiding defeat with equally stunning consistency. The painful reality for them is that they would be in the title race had they converted at least four of their 11 draws into wins.
However, Harare City face giant killers Bulawayo Chiefs at Luveve Stadium in a tricky encounter on Sunday. This is a match for which they must change the script and start picking points.
Chiefs will be having home advantage and they have gained notoriety for dismissing giants when playing at home.
Lack of precision in front of goal has been Harare City’s biggest undoing so far this season and Harrison considers his charges as third best to FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars, given their record in terms of defeats.
However, they may as well get inspiration from the fact that since they started playing in the PSL in 2012, Dynamos have won the league title after recording more than 11 draws in one season, in 2013.
Fading giants Dynamos finally return to action at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday when they lock horns with ZPC Kariba.
The Glamour Boys return to action after a long break following the postponement of their scheduled tie against bitter rivals Highlanders, with hope of turning the corner.
It has been a nightmarish season for Dynamos who find themselves hanging precariously above the drop zone. However, the long break for DeMbare means they should be fresh when they seek to disconnect Kauya Katuruturu (ZPC Kariba).
The struggling Harare giants are yet to win a match in the second-half of the season and face a tough ZPC Kariba side buoyed by a fine 3-1 victory over the exciting Triangle FC.
ZPC Kariba are in form, having lost only one match in their last five outings.
DeMbare will unleash some of their latest acquisitions which include the returning star midfielder, Bret Amidu.He makes a return from a dreadful stint at FC Platinum.
Forgotten striker Kingstone Nkatha, who signed for DeMbare last month, has yet to have his paperwork regularised and will miss Sunday’s match.
Coach Lloyd Mutasa should have taken time to motivate his players during this break and to look past any defeat so they concentrate on the upcoming encounter against ZPC Kariba at the ceremonial home of football.
Dynamos are just three points above the relegation zone. The sad part is they will be facing David Temwanjira, the lethal forward who scored a brace when he was turning out for Shabanie Mine on March 25 in a 3-all draw before signing for the power utility side last month.
For a while, it looked as the title race had been reduced to a two-team affair as FC Platinum and Ngezi pulled away from the rest of the teams.
However, Ngezi encountered an astonishing loss of form that saw them suffer four straight defeats to throw the title race wide open.
FC Platinum started the second half of the season on a bad note.
They collected two points from the three matches upon resumption.
The two platinum miners’ poor performance opened the window for Chicken Inn who strengthen their case on Saturday against Ngezi Platinum Stars at Luveve Stadium in Bulawayo.
Chicken Inn destroyed Shabanie Mine 3-0 at the weekend to maintain pressure on the leading pack.
They are now 40 points, seven behind second-placed Ngezi Platinum and nine adrift of log leaders FC Platinum.
Chicken Inn can cut the gap if they manage a positive result tomorrow against fellow title contenders Ngezi Platinum while FC Platinum have a tricky tie against Chapungu at Mandava Stadium.
Caps United will be banking on the return to form of captain Hardlife Zvirekwi, whose long spell on the sidelines due to an accident induced injury almost cut short his career.
He scored the only goal when his side dismissed a battling Black Rhinos last week.
Zvirekwi has put aside memories of a horrific accident that claimed his left hand just before the resumption of the current season.
Caps United, who trail log leaders FC Platinum by 14 points, both having played 21 matches, face Herentals at Rufaro Stadium in a tricky encounter tomorrow.
Herentals had a great escape with second-half substitute Tafadzwa Chitukutuku scoring a brace in stoppage time to give them a 2-all draw against Yadah FC at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
Herentials are 10th on the log standings, which is a good run for a side in its debut season in the premiership.
With the form they displayed on Sunday, the Green Machine might have to sweat for their money on Saturday at Rufaro Stadium.
Chicken Inn vs Ngezi Platinum (Luveve)
Nichrut vs Highlanders (Ascot)
Herentals vs CAPS United (Rufaro)
FC Platinum vs Chapungu (Mandava)
Black Rhinos vs Bulawayo City (NSS)
Mutare City vs Shabanie Mine (Vengere)
B Chiefs vs Harare City (Luveve)
Dynamos vs ZPC Kariba (Rufaro)
Triangle vs Yadah (Gibbo)
All matches start at 15:00.