Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
CAPITALISING on home advantage will be key for the seven clubs fighting relegation in their remaining Castle Lager Premier Soccer League games.
Four from the bottom seven clubs, anchors Yadah, Herentals, Mushowani Stars, Bulawayo Chiefs, Hwange, Harare City and TelOne, will be relegated at the end of the season.
Four points separate Yadah and TelOne, who are in 12th place with 28 points from 26 games.
Chiefs coach Thulani Sibanda is confident they will survive the chop and said their 2-0 victory against Caf Confederation Cup participants Triangle United increased their survival chances.
Chiefs occupy the last relegation slot in 15th place of the 18-team league with 28 points and Sibanda said they’re aiming for at least five points in their remaining three matches out of Bulawayo.
“The trick in this relegation race is simple; capitalise at home and aim for some points in away games. Every game is now a final and because of tight competition, we expect tough games. From those three games we will play outside Bulawayo, we will be happy if we manage to get at least five points and maximise on those we will play in Bulawayo,” said Sibanda.
Chiefs’ remaining games outside Bulawayo are against Ngezi Platinum Stars, defending champions FC Platinum and Manica Diamonds.
The other five matches Chiefs will play in Bulawayo are against fellow survival fighters Mushowani Stars and Hwange, Chicken Inn, Highlanders and Herentals.
If Chiefs fail to navigate through the murky relegation waters, there is a danger that the Southern Region will lose two teams in the event that Hwange, who are a place above Chiefs tied on 28 points, also sink.
The coalminers suffered a 3-1 defeat away to table-toppers Caps United.
Hwange coach Nation Dube wore a brave face as he declared that: “It’s too early to talk about us being relegated. We are going to give a good fight in our remaining games.”
Hwange had a good start to the season, but have been in freefall, going on a 12-match winless streak. Their last victory was on July 14 when they edged Chicken Inn 2-1 at the Colliery Stadium. Since then, Hwange have suffered four defeats and drawn eight times.
The coal miners are hoping to find the much-needed victory in their next game against Harare City, a tie both sides are hard-pressed to win and escape relegation.
The other remaining matches for Hwange are against Triangle (away), Mushowani Stars (home), Bulawayo Chiefs (away), Herentals (home), TelOne (away) and ZPC Kariba.
TelOne, coached by former national team assistant coaches Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa, saw their five-match unbeaten run being halted by a 2-0 defeat to Highlanders at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday.
The Wi-Fi Boys’ remaining games are a local derby against Chapungu, Black Rhinos (away), Caps United (home), Harare City (away), Triangle (home), Mushowani (away), Hwange (home) and Chicken Inn (away).
Lloyd Chitembwe, who was brought in to save Harare City from championship chasing Caps United, will pray for consistency from his charges in their remaining games.
Harare City are left with a trip to Hwange, Chicken Inn (home), Herentals (away), TelOne (home), ZPC Kariba (away), Yadah (home), Dynamos and Ngezi.
Harare City have an advantage in the sense that they will travel outside the capital twice to Hwange and Kariba.
The other side that will travel less in the last eight games is Yadah, who will be in Bulawayo for a date with Highlanders on Matchday 28 and on the last day of the season against Mushowani in Bindura.
Yadah’s other six games to be played in Harare are against Manica Diamonds, Chapungu, Black Rhinos, Caps United, Harare City and Triangle.
Mushowani are left with Triangle (home), Chiefs (away), Hwange (away), Chicken Inn (home), Herentals (away), TelOne (home), ZPC Kariba (away) and Yadah (home).
P W D L F A GD Pts
Caps United 26 15 5 6 45 31 14 50
FC Platinum 26 12 9 5 26 12 14 45
Chicken Inn 26 12 7 7 37 20 17 43
ZPC Kariba 26 11 8 7 23 18 5 41
Black Rhinos 26 10 9 7 24 22 2 39
Dynamos 26 8 13 5 23 20 3 37
Ngezi Platinum 26 9 9 8 21 18 3 36
Triangle United 26 10 6 10 34 32 2 36
Manica Diamonds 26 9 9 8 27 25 2 36
Highlanders 26 8 11 7 21 19 2 35
Chapungu 26 8 10 7 27 25 2 34
TelOne 26 5 13 8 20 26 -6 28
Harare City 26 8 4 14 25 32 -7 28
Hwange 26 6 10 10 22 31 -9 28
Bulawayo Chiefs 26 7 7 12 25 39 -14 28
Mushowani Stars 26 6 9 11 28 34 -6 27
Herentals 26 4 14 8 20 28 -8 26
Yadah 26 5 9 12 20 36 -16 24