Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
The race for this year’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title gets off the mark this afternoon with the battle between former champions Chicken Inn and Dynamos at Barbourfields this afternoon headlining an exciting opening round. DeMbare yesterday left for Bulawayo with hopes high for a positive start following extensive preparations during the pre-season.
The matches, for now, will not be on television after it emerged the PSL rejected all the bids submitted for their rights.
The Glamour Boys coach Lloyd Mutasa said the match against the Gamecocks should help gauge their strength in this year’s championship race.
“Starting the season against a team that is challenging for honours is good for us because it gives us a better view of where we stand since we are also aiming for the same.
“So, this is going to be a tough game. I know how tough Chicken Inn are but we have done our best to prepare for them. What we want is to start the season on a positive note,” said Mutasa.
Dynamos are one of the teams that have thrown their names into the hat for the 2018 title.
The others are Chicken Inn, CAPS United, FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum.
Mutasa has had a busy pre-season, compared to last year, when the Harare giants appeared ill-prepared yet they pushed all the way to a second place finish.
DeMbare have brought in a number of reinforcements that include Blessing Moyo, Jimmy Tigere, James Marufu, Marvelous Mukumba and Raphael Manuvire.
“Considering the work that we have done in the pre-season, I think we are coming up. But as a coach there is never a time when you can say I am happy. We would want to keep on improving,” said Mutasa.
However, Cameroonian striker Christian Epoupa, is doubtful for this match as he has been at loggerheads with the club over his signing-on dues and salary arrears.
Chicken Inn welcomed back championship winning coach Joey Antipas who returned from an unsuccessful stint in South Africa.
Midfielder Simon Munawa from Highlanders, former Bantu Rovers striker Obriel Chirinda, ex-How Mine defender Kudzi Chideu and winger Toto Banda, have crossed the floor to join them. “Opening the fixture against a side like Dynamos is always tough. We would have preferred different opponents, but we can’t run away from DeMbare. We are ready to roll.
“We’re almost there in terms of fitness levels and the boys are almost there in terms of match fitness and we are now waiting for the games.
“In terms of targets, it’s still early. We will be taking each game as it comes and I’m sure if we play good football and get positive results we should be there with the top teams,” said Antipas.
Another exciting fixture is expected when ZPC Kariba host defending champions FC Platinum at the National Sports Stadium.
ZPC Kariba will play their home games in Harare until their Nyamhunga ground has been renovated to meet minimum requirements for Club Licensing.
Newboys Herentals travel to Ngezi Platinum for a date against Tonderai Ndiraya’s men at Baobab while Yadah host debutants Bulawayo Chiefs at Rufaro.
Former champions CAPS United will be at home to Harare City tomorrow.
Makepekepe have embraced former Dynamos midfielder Denver Mukamba, Milton Ncube, Munyaradzi Diya, Chris Mverechena, Method Mwanjali, Dominic Mukandi, Praise Tonha, Ronald Chitiyo, Brian Muzondiwa, Wisdom Mutasa, Tony Fuga and Simba Nhivi into their squad.
Harare City coach Mark Harrison, while relishing the opening fixture against his former employers CAPS United, has set a target to finish in the top eight this year.
Giants Highlanders host Black Rhinos at Barbourfields tomorrow.
The Bulawayo giants have said they want to restore the Bosso legacy under Madinda Ndlovu who has returned to the club this year with a number of changes.
“We don’t train for one team, but for the entire competition. Fixtures have to be fulfilled; it’s a marathon, we are playing for points and those points will put us somewhere on the table.
“We are on a three-year project, which needs to be put on track; the track being the ability to play exciting and entertaining football,” coach Madinda Ndlovu said.
Bulawayo City v Chapungu (Luveve), Ngezi Platinum v Herentals (Baobab), ZPC Kariba v FC Platinum (NSS), Nichrut v Mutare City (Mandava), Yadah v Bulawayo Chiefs (Rufaro), Chicken Inn v Dynamos (Barbourfields)
Highlanders v Black Rhinos (Barbourfields), Shabanie Mine v Triangle (Mandava), CAPS United v Harare City (NSS)