Highlanders and CAPS United are concealed in the shadows of their traditional giant statuses and desperately seek Premier Soccer League (PSL) redemption when they play Dongo Sawmill and ZPC Kariba respectively this afternoon.
Highlanders travel to Rusape for a Vengere date with Dongo while CAPS host Saul Chaminuka’s side at the National Sports Stadium.
It is a catastrophy for an established football institution like Highlanders to manage a paltry two goals and concede thrice in the five matches they have played so far.
Bongani Mafu’s charges have already been defeated twice this season and won as many matches while recording a draw in the other game.
One of the defeats was at home against Chapungu whom they provided a springboard to escape from the basement where the Gweru based outfit was sitting two weeks ago.
Unsurprisingly, the result torched a storm among Bosso fans who have been waiting for the league title for the past eight years.
But the former Zimbabwe Saints coach can easily attribute the poor show to injuries that have plagued his dressing room.
“It is not a favourable situation having your key players injured,” said Mafu.
“But we live in a realistic world where we have to work with what is available. When one guy is out, it is someone else’ turn to play. We just need to work harder.”
Forwards Obadiah Tarumbwa and King Nadolo, goalkeeper Njabulo Nyoni as well as defender Douglas Sibanda will not make the Vengere trip.
But their strikeforce has been boosted by the return to fitness of Ozias Zibande and Simba Sithole who however is yet to make an impact at Bosso where he arrived mid-season last year.
Either striker is expected to partner Thomas Chideu or Gabirla Nyoni upfront.
Injury-prone Rahman Kutsanzira’s chances of playing are slim.
Mafu appears to have drawn a crucial lesson from the Chapungu stunner and is wary of Dongo who are yet to win a PSL match.
“Dongo are not struggling as people might want to put it. They are also not a small side as many might want to believe. So I expect a tough match because we are playing against a team that also wants three points,” said Mafu.
With Chapungu registering their first win of the season against Highlanders, Dongo have drawn inspiration from that May 12 contest and believe they can notch their maiden PSL victory against Bosso.
Dongo coach Shadreck Mugurasave believes they can slay the giants.
“Football is the same and there is no difference whether you are playing Dynamos, CAPS United or Highlanders,” said Mugurasave.
“We are aiming for three points of course. We are focused on this match and Highlanders can be beaten just like they fell to Chapungu. But we are not too comfortable because of their recent form. We have been playing well but we were undone by the lapse in concentration in the dying stages of our matches.”
Mugurasave poured water on reports that his players boycotted training for two days last week in protest over unpaid salaries.
“There was no player strike. Morale is high in camp and we are just waiting for battle,” Mugurasave said.
The PSL debutants go to war without suspended right-back Kelvin Katandika who has accumulated three yellow cards in the five games they have played.
At the National Sports Stadium, ZPC Kariba are after inflicting revenge on CAPS United who denied them the league title on the final day of last season.
Chaminuka’s outfit visit an unstable CAPS United whose morale is at an all-time low due to serious financial constraints.
But Chaminuka is refusing to be misled by the notion that CAPS United players will take to the field on empty stomachs.
ZPC edged United last week in the Independence Trophy third-place playoff in Bulawayo and Chaminuka is also not reading on that.
“Obviously, it is going to be a real fight,” he said.
“CAPS are also trying to survive relegation just like us. If you look at the log table we are not sitting too far from them. So much has been said about CAPS but I am concerned more about our game than anything else,” he said.
His counterpart Mark Harrison is concerned about managing to convince disgruntled players to fulfill the fixture.
“I am sure I will come up with a full team,” said Harrison.
“We are trying to push things on a day-to-day basis. We are trying to focus. It is not going to be easy for us to win this game but we are looking forward to getting it right. They [ZPC Kariba] are one of the good teams in the league so it is going to be difficult. We expect a different game from last week when we met them.”
Veteran forward Leonard Tsipa is out injured.
CAPS have managed two wins just like ZPC Kariba but having lost once as well as donating three points to How Mine has left them on a soul-searching mission.