Pressure on Dynamos in low-key Harare derby vs. CAPS United
A low-key Harare derby is in the offing on Saturday as struggling giants CAPS United and Dynamos collide on matchday 24 in the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League.
A clash between the two bitter rivals is usually one of the highlights of the domestic calendar, but some poor performances in the run-up have taken the bite out of this fixture.
CAPS go into the Rufaro Stadium clash with just one win in the last six matches, and things nearly turned nasty on Thursday as fans expressed their displeasure following a dispiriting 2-0 loss at home to Triangle.
However, the pressure will undoubtedly be on Dynamos, who sit just four points above the relegation places in 13th.
They have not done much of late to aid their cause either; coach Lloyd Mutasa had promised a significant uptick in performances in the second half of the season, but this is proving easier said than done.
The 21-time Zimbabwe champions have managed just one win in the last five, with Wednesday's horror showing in the goalless draw against Yadah further driving home the reality that they are in a relegation dogfight.
Dynamos are now in a three-way relegation battle alongside Chapungu, who are two points behind in 14th place, and Nichrut, occupying the last relegation place.
The bottom three of Shabanie Mine, Bulawayo City and Mutare City are all tied on 15 points, some 11 behind Dynamos.
If Dynamos were to lose to CAPS on Sunday, they could find themselves in deeper trouble should both Chapungu and Nichrut win their matches against Herentals and Yadah respectively.
CAPS on the other hand, although desperate for a win to avoid slipping further behind in the race for a top-four finish, can afford to relax a little.
Coach Lloyd Chitembwe, however, will need all three points to placate a section of the club's fans who have grown disillusioned by the team's inconsistency throughout the campaign.
"The reaction of the fans is justified," Chitembwe told the media after the loss to Triangle [via News Day]. "When they come expecting a win and the team doesn't win, obviously you expect them to react that way.
"At the end of the day, as a coach, naturally, you take responsibility and I am very much aware. We take full responsibility."
Meanwhile log leaders FC Platinum and second-placed Ngezi have relatively easy assignments against Bulawayo Chiefs and Mutare City respectively.
Platinum suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Harare City on Wednesday, a result which allowed Ngezi to cut the gap between the two title rivals to one point after a thumping 5 -1 win over Shabanie mine.
The momentum is now with Ngezi, who have collected 13 points from the last possible 15 to take full advantage of Platinum's inconsistent run.
Norman Mapeza's champions have managed just two wins from their last five matches to surrender a healthy six-point lead, and their troubles have even raised the hopes of third-placed Chicken Inn, who are now seven points shy of the summit.
The Gamecocks have won six and drawn two of their last eight matches to emerge as the dark horses in the title race, but they will need more of that form to remain in touch with the leading duo.
Chicken Inn underlined their growing confidence with a tight 3-2 win over Highlanders on Wednesday, and are heavily tipped to dispatch visiting ZPC Kariba on Sunday.
Highlanders themselves are at home to Shabanie, while Triangle, who climbed into fourth after Wednesday's win at CAPS, host Bulawayo City.