Dynamos face Rhinos test amidst relegation fears
Zimbabwe Premier League giants Dynamos will look to steer clear of the relegation places with victory over Black Rhinos at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
The former champions lifted some of the gloom enveloping their camp with a 2-1 win over derby rivals CAPS United last Sunday, a result which saw them crawl out of the relegation zone, but they remain perilously close to trouble and any setback against Rhinos could see Dembare back in the red.
In other matchday 30 encounters scheduled for the weekend, log leaders FC Platinum resume their quest for a second consecutive title with a visit to Nichrut, while second-placed Ngezi Platinum begin life in the post-Tonderai Ndiraya era against Chapungu at Baobab Stadium.
Five points separate the two title hopefuls going into the last five matches of the campaign, and recent form suggests there could be a couple more twists before the championship is eventually decided.
Sixth-placed Highlanders, with just one win in the last five, host neighbours Bulawayo City with coach Madinda Ndlovu desperate for victory, if only to add more substance to his insistence that the rebuilding project remains on course despite recent on-pitch woes.
CAPS United, meanwhile, take their four-match winless run to Mashonaland West for a date against ZPC Kariba.
Nothing, however, compares to the predicament Dynamos face as they look to extricate themselves from the relegation quagmire as a disastrous campaign approaches the climax.
Sunday's win over CAPS was the team's first in six matches, and coach Lloyd Chigove is hoping his players can use the positive fillip thereof as a springboard for a consistent run needed to secure their premiership status before the final matchday.
It will not help though that Dynamos go into the battle at Rufaro without several of their key figures.
Phakamani Dube and Cleopas Kapupurike are injured, while James Marufu and Godfrey Mukambi will be suspended for the tie. Marshal Machazana and Jimmy Tigere, meanwhile, are unavailable on personal grounds.
Furthermore, problem child Denver Mukamba has a hamstring complaint which prevented him from training with the rest of the team on Thursday. Coach Lloyd Chigove admitted to KweséESPN that the absentees have left a huge hole in the team.
"Yes, we will certainly miss those players because they are good players. And to make matters worse we are facing a Black Rhinos side who are tricky opponents," Chigove said.
"Their coach (Herbert) Maruwa was a long serving juniors coach and Dynamos and knows our system well.
"But we have prepared well for the match and we are confident that those players selected to play on Sunday will be motivated to prove that they are just as good as the ones they are replacing."
Chigove will have been encouraged by the form of Valentine Kadonzvo, who decided the Harare derby with a brilliant volley after coming on a substitute. More will also be expected from winger Emmanuel Mandiranga and former SuperSport striker Kingstone Nkhata.
Nkhata's arrival was expected to help solve the team's woes in front of goal, but the ex-Warriors striker has spent much of his time in the treatment room since signing up in midseason.
There are fewer options in defence, though and it will not help that Dynamos are facing a Rhinos team who have the fifth most prolific forward line in the league with 33 goals in their 29 matches.
Chief striker Lot Chiunga is again enjoying another productive season while Wellington Taderera has added some much needed flair.
Young players such as right-back Tapiwa Sibanda (20) and attackers McDonald Makuwe (18) and Kudzai Dhlamini (19) have also added some much needed depth to the team, and coach Maruwa can fancy his chances of compounding the misery at his former employers.