IT’S not like any other Sunday in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League!
Top four teams in the domestic top-flight league — Highlanders, Manica Diamonds, Ngezi Platinum and Dynamos — will be at each other’s throat in a blockbuster football league fixture that might have a huge bearing on who will clinch the coveted title at the end of the season.
Log leaders, Highlanders will take on bitter rivals, Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo, while second placed Manica Diamonds will entertain Ngezi Platinum at Baobab Stadium in Mhondoro-Ngezi.
Yes, winning Sunday’s match does not give an automatic ticket to win the league championship, but losing the encounter will have a serious dent on title aspirations.
For the Mutare-based Gem Boys, the encounter against Ngezi Platinum will be a true test of character for the Manica Diamonds Class of 2023, given that the club has not beaten Ngezi Platinum since their promotion into the Premiership.
The best the Gem Boys have managed in the five league encounters that they have played against Ngezi Platinum was ending the match in a stalemate on three occasions, while the other two ended in defeats for the Mutare-based outfit.
Manica Diamonds coach, Jairos Tapera reckons that the match against Ngezi Platinum will not be a stroll in the park.
“It will certainly not be an easy match. It is a huge challenge for us as Manica Diamonds. Ngezi Platinum are a very good side with a shrewd technical department.
“The last time we played them in the reverse fixture, they beat us by a solitary goal. We had our chances in that encounter, and we could have easily turned the tables, but that was not our day.
“However, on Saturday (tomorrow), we just need to go there and play our usual game, with nothing less than victory in our minds. I pray that the better team will win on Saturday,” said the former Young Warriors coach, whose team has surprised everyone including themselves owing to a fine run that has seen them being a permanent part of the top four teams on the table.
Interestingly for Manica Diamonds, the 2023 season has not been rosy from the onset.
The start of the season saw Manica Diamonds losing 0-2 to Caps United, before settling for a goalless stalemate against Triangle, and then went on to settle for yet another morale sapping draw against Herentals Colleges.
The Gem Boys proceeded to beat GreenFuel 2-1.
These results left the Jairos Tapera-coach teams in the lower echelons of the league table as discontent started building up among their fans.
But, for some reason, Tapera picked up the pieces, tried several combinations at his disposal and somehow started collecting points along the way.
To date, the club is in an enviable second position on the log.
For the Battle of Zimbabwe, pitting Dynamos and Highlanders, Chipinge-born Dynamos coach, Genesis Mangombe said: “This is certainly a tricky encounter. It is more of a derby and the atmosphere is always intimidating. We are preparing for this match, and we promise an entertaining game of football.
“Our position is that we are not chasing the league title that much, but we only want to make sure that we collect maximum points as much as we can. If we can collect maximum points, then it is good for us. We just want to reduce the gap between us and the team at the top – which is Highlanders.
“I should also hasten to point out that we are not afraid of them at all. This match means a lot to us. It is one match whose results can transform the way teams are lined up on the log table.
“Winning big matches like this, one requires mental strength, and this is what we are telling our boys. They need to be at their beast, not only physically, but mental too,” said Mangombe.
Come Sunday, come crème de la crème of Zimbabwean football!