Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
LAST Sunday it was the Harare Derby, which they won, tomorrow it is the Battle of Zimbabwe, which they are favoured to win and next the Derby returns again in a tough three-fixture programme that might define Dynamos’ quest for the league championship.
DeMbare assistant coach Biggie Zuze believes their latest Battle of Zimbabwe showdown against Highlanders at Rufaro tomorrow will be more about a test of character for them and has challenged his charges to showcase their qualities in this blockbuster Castle Lager Premiership fixture.
Matches on the domestic front rarely come any bigger than tomorrow’s game and that Dynamos are enjoying a purple patch, while Bosso are struggling, might pale into insignificance in a contest of this magnitude.
Zuze has been Mutasa’s Number Two since the start of the season and the former DeMbare midfielders have combined their wits to revive the Glamour Boys’ fortunes.
A cautious Zuze noted yesterday that tomorrow’s clash before an expected bumper crowd at Rufaro could be more about who shows better character to withstand the heat.
The former Triangle coach said although their confidence levels were high, they were wary of a Bosso backlash saying the encounter was like a “battle against a wounded lion”.
Dynamos also have one major concern going into the showdown — an injury to influential midfielder Denver Mukamba — whom Zuze said would undergo a fitness test today.
“Our preparations have gone on well and the good thing is that all the guys who did the job against CAPS United are fit and available and the only worry is Denver who has an ankle injury and we will have to take another look at him tomorrow before making a decision,” Zuze said.
Zuze also praised the spirit at the Dynamos training ground and felt that in-form skipper Ocean Mushure and his troops had “pleasantly surprised us with the way they have quickly learnt their stuff”.
“What we are seeing with these players, the way they have adapted to our philosophy, has surprised us, but also left us happy.
“I think after the way they handled the Derby the belief is there now and there is a hunger to play and to showcase their talents which is a plus for us as coaches.
“Of course, there are still a lot of games to go and in fact it is going to get harder now until the end of the season, but these are the kind of games where we should keep the pressure on the team that is on top and just like the match against Highlanders, all our remaining matches will be about character.
“Everyone is now fighting for their lives, if you are playing Tsholotsho they are playing for survival, if you play FC Platinum they are fighting to be at the top and if it is against ZPC Kariba they want to finish among the top four so you can see that whichever match we play it will not be easy and we have been trying to ensure that the players take it on a game by game basis,” Zuze said.
The Dynamos assistant coach reckoned that Bosso had been unlucky to lose in some of their matches and warned that the Bulawayo giants will come to the capital seeking to end DeMbare’s march.
“I don’t think in terms of performance Highlanders have been very bad. You can play very well and still come out losers like they did in their last game against Chapungu where they created some very good chances, but didn’t put them away.
“So we are expecting them to come firing at us . . . it’s like playing a wounded lion on Sunday. I think they will be more dangerous than the last few teams that we have played.” Zuze also revealed that they had been working on their players’ mentality to ensure they also make full use of their home crowd.
“When we played in the Independence Cup final at the National Sports Stadium it was a full house and that kind of pressure helped our youngsters and now we have been telling them that we need to manage the crowd at Rufaro with the way we apply ourselves on the pitch.
“At Rufaro the crowd will be closer to the action on the pitch and it is important for each of them to support one another and I hope our supporters will also not hand the advantage to the visitors by booing their own players if they make mistakes.”
Cameroonian striker Christian Epoupa Ntouba has been the leading light in the Dynamos attack and Zuze is aware that Bosso coach Erol Akbay will certainly have the big forward in his game plan as the Dutchman seeks to neutralise the DeMbare hitman.
Ntouba showed he is a player for the big stage when his brace deflated CAPS United at the National Sports Stadium last Sunday. Zuze lauded the West African for bringing the cutting edge to their attack.
“We know that every team will be planning to deal with our strengths as well as what they may think to be our weaknesses, but we are not worried. Epoupa is giving a lot of dimension to our attack.
“A lot of people didn’t give Epoupa a chance when he arrived in the country but we saw something in him and we worked on that and the results are showing.
“Scoring goals is more of a team effort, but Epoupa has that extra class in the box and I hope that whatever game plan the opponents might have around him and all our other players, it will not be dirty.
“I think as we both play a clean game we should enjoy on Sunday and the players will enjoy their game too,” Zuze said.
Despite his team undergoing a lean spell, Akbay has been in defiant mood and insists his side will not be cowed into submission at Rufaro. The Dutchman, who will be without his captain Eric Mudzingwa told The Herald, he was working on his strike force.
Midfielder Rahman Kutsanzira, who had a stint with CAPS United, is expected to provide the leadership on the pitch.
“My team plays good football and they are certainly one of the best clubs playing a flowing brand of football in the country. “In all the matches which we have played this season, I think we have been on top of things and even our opponents can confess. “It is just unfortunate that we have always been unable to score in almost every game which we have lost or drawn.
“We need to sharpen our strike-force and in the game against Dynamos I think every player is motivated to do well. “We know that Dynamos is a good team and the match will be tough, but we are going to Rufaro looking for a win to kick-start our revival mission which is what the fans and everyone at Highlanders want,” Akbay said.
But for all his enthusiasm Akbay would also have to ensure his forwards fashion something special as one of the unsung heroes of Dynamos’ resurgence has been their goalkeeper Tonderai Mateyaunga.
Mateyaunga has conceded just two goals in 540 minutes of action and Zuze acknowledged the young goalkeeper’s contribution to the Dynamos defensive third.
“All the three goalkeepers we have are competent and Mateyaunga has shown that he is ripe to be the first choice for now and we are happy with the way he has been commanding his area and the clean sheets he has recorded have also boosted his confidence.
“We are still working with him to make him even better, but he is one of the most important players at the club at the moment,” Zuze said.