Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
TOMORROW’S Battle of the Cities could be the farewell match for CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe who is set to jump ship and join Harare City as head coach.
The Green Machine host Highlanders in a Castle Lager Premiership showdown at the National Sports Stadium.
Chitembwe has been at CAPS United for the past four years and guided his team to success in the league championship in 2016, ending an 11-year wait for the ultimate title.
The Sunshine Boys’ leaders have settled on Chitembwe to be their saviour after a season that started with so much promise has veered off the rails in recent weeks.
They lost their coach, Mark Harrison, and stand-in coach Mark Mathe — who was Chitembwe’s assistant at CAPS United — has failed to find a winning formula.
‘’Harare City officials have been vigorous in their pursuit of Lloyd and believe he is the perfect guy who can stabilise their team and take it back on winning ways,’’ sources told The Herald.
‘’They have been talking to him, if not directly, then to those who represent him and things have been moving with pace in the past few weeks.
‘’The Harare City officials believe Lloyd is not happy at CAPS United, they have been reading his body language, the way he used to celebrate a goal at the beginning of the season and what he is doing now.
‘’They feel, if they can give him a good deal, they can entice him away from CAPS and that will be a huge statement of intent for them.
‘’So far, it appears both parties are singing the same song and it has been left for the deal to be presented to him and it could happen as soon as this weekend and it’s a good one which he might find difficult to resist.
‘’Harare City believe they offer a more stable environment for coaches than at CAPS United, where pressure is intense and things can get out of control very quickly.’’
Ironically, Chitembwe has missed some CAPS United games amid reports he wasn’t feeling well, but it appears there are some differences between him and some of the club leaders.
No comment could be secured from either the Green Machine officials or Chitembwe, who has been pushing technical director Nelson Matongorere to deal with the media in recent weeks, yesterday.
However, some CAPS United sources said a deal could still be thrashed for Chitembwe to remain as head coach of the club.
‘’We know all that story, but our leaders have been working on it and Lloyd will remain at the club, no doubt about that,’’ said the sources.
‘’He has been tempted but he wants to remain at CAPS because this is the club he played, captained and coached.’’
Chitembwe is set to be unveiled as one of the assistant coaches in the new Warriors technical set-up in which Joey Antipas will head the group, with Tonderai Ndiraya one of the assistants.
Highlanders coach Mandla Mpofu believes his charges will finally exorcise the ghost that has seen them failing to register a win in Harare for over a year when they face CAPS United at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow.
The Bulawayo giants haven’t lost in their last six matches, but they haven’t been so lucky in the capital where they last won a league match in June last year when they beat Harare City 2-1 at Rufaro.
Highlanders have been in Harare four times this season, but have never returned back home with maximum points in those trips.
Makepekepe are second on the table with 31 points to their name, just four off the pace.
“Of course, CAPS United have been performing better than Highlanders and I have to acknowledge the fact that it will take us a great deal of effort if we are to catch up with them,” said Mpofu.
“But a match between Highlanders and CAPS United is always big at any time whether either of those teams is off-form or not. We are actually ready for the challenge.
“Inasmuch as we can carry the underdog tag, I think teams can’t take us lightly. We can turn the tables and considering that we picked six points in the last two games, it can be a motivator.
“The players still want to win more. When we play these games, like the one against CAPS United, the players won’t wait for the coach’s motivation, they will already be motivated by that alone.
“That is good for the technical team because the players already want to put more than total commitment onto the cause so, as coaches, I think we just need to psyche them up a bit, which is a plus.
“So, we are just waiting for Sunday (tomorrow) and we will enjoy our game.”
The reverse encounter ended in a goalless stalemate at Barbourfields in April amid controversial officiating by referee Thabani Bamala.
He somehow ruled out what looked like a genuine late winner scored by CAPS United.
He also made a number of questionable calls against the Green Machine.
Bosso arrive in Harare with a spring in their step as their main forward, Prince Dube, has started to play to his potential after a quiet return to the club.
The forward scored three goals for the Warriors in a CHAN qualifier at Barbourfields and then scored the winner against Chapungu.
Bosso then made it two wins on the trot with a victory over Black Rhinos.
Today: Black Rhinos v Chapungu United (National Sports Stadium); Harare City v Manica Diamonds (Rufaro); Chicken Inn v Yadah (Luveve); TelOne v Bulawayo Chiefs (Ascot)
Tomorrow: Herentals v ZPC Kariba (Rufaro); CAPS United v Highlanders (National Sports Stadium); Hwange v Dynamos (Colliery); Mushowani v Ngezi Platinum (Trojan); Triangle v FC Platinum (Gibbo)