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Zimbabwe PSL preview: Dynamos away as title run-in begins

Log leaders Dynamos make the trip to unpredictable ZPC Kariba this weekend, while a massive showdown looms at Barbourfields Stadium where third-placed FC Platinum visit Bulawayo giants Highlanders as the title run-in gets underway in the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League.

Dynamos have seized the momentum after opening up a three-point lead at the top of the table with seven games to play, but coach Lloyd Mutasa should be aware that the toughest hurdles are those that lie ahead as he looks to close in on a maiden league title from the dugout.

Only four teams remain in the title race now, with Ngezi and Platinum tied on 53 points behind Dynamos, while Chicken Inn have since slipped down to fourth on 51.

The season is fast entering a phase where physical endurance on the part of the players could prove just as vital as their strength of character.

Successive Dynamos teams have often proven adept at soaking the pressure that comes with a title race, and Mutasa will be hoping for more of the same as he takes his class of 2017 to Kariba for a fixture which represents one of those potentially treacherous bumps en route to the finishing line.

The 21-time Zimbabwe champions can justifiably feel optimistic against a seventh-placed Kariba team whose camp is currently in utter disarray, with a winless five-match run in all competitions having forced coach Sunday Chidzambwa to announce his decision to quit at the end of the season.

However, Mutasa is quick to caution that Kariba will have no shortage of motivation against Zimbabwean football's standard bearers, and the potential for an upset at Nyamhunga Stadium could be greater than the form books suggest.

"We have always said that every game that Dynamos plays is never an easy one. Every team feels motivated playing against us because we are a big institution," he told KweséESPN this week.

"Kariba also have a great coach in Chidzambwa, our mentor. He has done a great job for football in this country and playing against his teams is never easy."

Dynamos have been boosted by the return to fitness of experienced defender Obey Mwerahari and the versatile Carlos Rusere, with Mutasa relieved to be able to count on something approaching a full squad at long last.

"We are getting into the home stretch and we have quite a number of players coming back into the fold and I think it's a positive sign for us," he added.

"We hope they will come and help the team achieve what we want to achieve at the end of the day."

Meanwhile Platinum are still in with a chance of winning their first ever league title, but they have a formidable obstacle to clear on Sunday against a Highlanders team who caused a stir the last time out with a 4-0 thrashing of Chicken Inn.

Platinum have struggled all season to produce the kind consistency which justifies their squad's strength in depth, and draws in their last two matches against Yadah (0-0) and CAPS United (1-1) demonstrate that things aren't improving quickly enough.

Coach Norman Mapeza's mandate for the season is to win the title, and any further slip-ups could prove costly for a team which surprisingly continues to find league success elusive despite attracting the country's best talent since their top-flight debut back in 2011.

For their part, eighth-placed Highlanders may have entertained title ambitions at some stage but they are now completely out of the picture, with the now famous win over Chicken Inn actually coming on the back of a seven-match winless run.

The Bulawayo giants will once again be missing the invention of midfield ace King Nadolo, whose momentum has been disrupted by a niggling ankle injury just when he appeared to have recaptured his best form.

Chicken Inn visit Shabanie Mine on Friday afternoon desperate to put their title challenge back on track after slipping from pole position down to fourth.

Second-placed Ngezi, on the other hand, are away to Bulawayo City on Saturday.

Full fixtures

Friday

Shabanie Mine vs. Chicken Inn

Saturday

Bulawayo City vs. Ngezi Platinum, Tsholotsho vs. Chapungu, ZPC Kariba vs. Dynamos, Yadah vs. Black Rhinos, Harare City vs. Bantu Rovers, How Mine vs. Hwange

Sunday

CAPS United vs. Triangle, Highlanders vs. FC Platinum

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