Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
CHICKEN Inn’s title hopes will be blown away if they lose to Castle Lager Premier Soccer League leaders, Ngezi Platinum Stars at Baobab Stadium this afternoon.
The Gamecocks are in fourth position with 59 points from 31 games and trail Ngezi by four points.
A defeat will leave Chicken Inn seven points adrift of Ngezi, meaning that even if they win their last two games, they can only end the season on 65 points.
Chicken Inn’s next opponents are Chapungu FC, who are gunning for a top-eight finish, and wrap up their campaign with a trip to title chasing Dynamos.
The Gamecocks laboured to a 1-0 win against Tsholotsho in their last match, condemning the Zhwane Boys to the First Division.
Ngezi edged Bantu Rovers 1-0 in their last game and have not lost a game at home this season. Their last league defeat at Baobab was on August 13, 2016, when they went down 0-2 to How Mine.
Since then, Ngezi have had an amazing home record, winning 15 out of 21 home games and drawing five.
With such a record, Chicken Inn will have to be at their best to stop Tonderai Ndiraya’s men who believe the title is theirs to keep.
“The championship is still in our hands and all we have to do is win our next matches. At this stage what is critical is mental strength. We’re playing former champions (Chicken Inn) and a good FC Platinum side which requires us to raise our game. What I know is that my players are good whenever we face the big teams,” said Ndiraya.
While Ngezi will be out to eliminate Chicken Inn from the title race, FC Platinum will be hoping to collect maximum points against relegated Tsholotsho at Luveve Stadium.
Meanwhile, relegation threatened Bulawayo City have set their sights on claiming championship chasing Dynamos’ scalp and save their sinking ship this afternoon at Barbourfields Stadium.
Bulawayo City are in danger of going down after just two seasons in the topflight.
The municipal side is just a point above relegation with 35 points from 31 outings.
City are under pressure to secure positive results and could find themselves occupying one of the four relegation slots should they lose this afternoon.
Mandla Mpofu, City’s coach, emphasised the need for maximum points against Dynamos adding that they are under pressure to post positive results in their remaining three games.
“Our take is that we have to fight and take each of the last three games like a final. We can’t afford to keep on dropping points. On Wednesday we play a team that is on the brink of a championship and we’re under pressure to deliver, meaning that this is going to be a difficult game where we need to rise to the occasion. If it means players breaking bones during the fight, let it be so because we really need to come out of the game with maximum points,” said Mpofu.
This will be the third time City clash with Dynamos to clash this season. City lost 4-3 to DeMbare in the first leg and went on to knock the Harare giants out of the Chibuku Super Cup following a 2-1 win. All the games were played in Harare.
“If you look at the two results we got against Dynamos in Harare, you will realise that we really put up a good fight in Harare and I hope my players will rise against the giants like they did before. Playing at home must be an advantage for us,” said Mpofu.
He will bank on experienced defender Zephaniah Ngodzo and Nyasha Mukumbi to marshal the defence, Morris Kadzola, who has been doing well since being moved from right-back to defensive midfield, as well as striker Ishmael Wadi.
However, it is the manner that City goalkeepers Ndodana Sibanda and Liberty Chirava have been conceding “silly goals” that worry Mpofu.
“Our downfall has been conceding easy and soft goals. What we’ve been doing is more like gifting our opponents goals. We have to work on our defending, avoid gifting opponents goals and also ensure that we bury chances we create,” said Mpofu.
With two teams Bantu Rovers and Tsholotsho FC having been relegated, two more will be axed from the topflight and they will come from either Shabanie Mine, Hwange, Bulawayo City, Harare City, Yadah FC, Black Rhinos or Chapungu.