The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS coach, Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu is feeling the heat ahead of his team’s clash with FC Platinum in a Chibuku Super Cup quarterfinal fixture.
While no date and venue has been announced by the Premier Soccer League for the showdown between Bosso and Pure Platinum Play, the match is most likely to be played on Saturday at Mandava Stadium.
Highlanders were the last team to win the Chibuku Super Cup when they defeated Ngezi Platinum Stars 1-0 at Barbourfields Stadium in 2019, which means all attention is on Amahlolanyama to defend their title. First, Bosso have to clear the FC Platinum hurdle if they are to stay in with a chance to retain the country’s most rewarding club competition.
“From the first game we played, we wanted to defend the Chibuku Super Cup. All the eight teams that are remaining, they all want to win the cup. All the pressure is on Highlanders, we were the last team to win the Chibuku Super Cup so all the attention is on us,’’ Mpofu said.
Two years ago, Highlanders thrashed FC Platinum 3-0 in a quarter-final encounter played at Emagumeni but Mpofu is expecting a tough battle against the Norman Mapeza coached team. Mpofu is preparing to face FC Platinum at any venue and feels it does not matter where the two will collide with fireworks expected.
“Playing FC Platinum away or at home, it doesn’t matter, it’s a tough match, there is no home advantage looking at the history of the two teams. The games are always exciting and tough. We are preparing accordingly. It’s going to be a tough match considering that they have been active all along,’’ he said.
Bosso finished second in the Bulawayo based group, which was topped by Chicken Inn whose last eight opponents are Ngezi Platinum Stars.
“There was no way of avoiding a tough match, even if we had faced Ngezi Platinum it’s the same as playing FC Platinum. These are finals before finals,’’ opined the Bosso coach.
Highlanders have been boosted by the return from injury of midfielder Winston Mhango as well as utility left footed Pritchard Mpelele. A hamstring injury kept Mhango on the sidelines while Mpelele had a knee problem.
“Winston is back, he has trained the whole week, its good news for the team. Pritchard is also back, he gives us another dimension, he had a knee problem, he trained whole week without pain. If they make good progress, it means we have number of players to choose from.”
Highlanders are however, still without Adrian Silla (pulled muscle), Andrew Tandi (knee problem) as well as Cardwell Gavaza (Achilles’ tendon). Mpofu indicated that the three players are still far from being fully fit as they are undergoing treatment and not training at all.
Bosso found the going tough in their last three matches, which saw them fail to pick up maximum points as they drew 1-1 with both Bulawayo Chiefs and Chicken Inn prior to playing out a 0-0 stalemate with Bulawayo City.
Highlanders actually did well when they had problems in their camp, which saw players go on strike over unpaid salaries.
Despite struggling in their last three matches Mpofu is backing his players to come to the party against FC Platinum.
“This is football, it was just a spell, we did pretty well under difficult circumstances, we were in a tough situation, there was no motivation, we managed to grind results. We will rise to the occasion. Money doesn’t make you instantly successful, we always want to play and get positive results, we know what the Highlanders family wants,’’ Mpofu said.
As they gear up to face FC Platinum, Highlanders trained from Tuesday until yesterday, with players given a break today before they resume fine tuning tomorrow.
Highlanders should have their vociferous fans when they clash with FC Platinum after the Sports and Recreation Commission gave the green light for fully vaccinated 2 000 fans to witness the Chibuku Super Cup action.
Our Harare Bureau reports that Harare City and ZPC Kariba face contrasting fortunes today as they seek to outdo each other and secure the last of the quarter-final slots in the Chibuku Super Cup soccer tournament.
For ZPC Kariba the fate of qualifying for the last eight is not in their hands while City still have control of their destiny in the two breakfast matches (kick-off 11am) at different venues. Lloyd Chitembwe’s men must get a win against runaway Group One leaders, Dynamos, whom they face at Baobab while ZPC Kariba have all to do in their date against CAPS United at the National Sports Stadium.
The Sunshine Boys who faltered last weekend when losing 3-0 to Herentals need two points to be absolute about their place, which will make the results of ZPC Kariba’s game against CAPS United academic.
But should Harare City slump to Dynamos and ZPC Kariba overcome CAPS United, it is the electricity men who will advance to the quarter-finals.
For a club that has been in the final of the Chibuku Super Cup more than any other top-flight side, Harare City will be looking to continue with their fine history in the tournament.
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