The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
HIGHLANDERS coach, Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu has declared that they are heading to Harare to collect maximum points against Caps United when the two teams square off in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
Ever since Mpofu took over as Highlanders technical manager from Madinda Ndlovu at the beginning of last month, Bosso are yet to taste defeat in the five matches they have played. Mpofu has led Bosso to three draws and two wins, results which have seen them gain some considerable ground on the log. Highlanders, who were 14th when Mpofu took over headed into this weekend’s fixtures in ninth spot with 23 points, 12 away from log leaders FC Platinum with Bosso having a game in hand.
Their fine run comes under heavy scrutiny when they face Caps United in the capital city this afternoon. While Bosso have been playing well of late, they are yet to collect maximum points away from home, with all their five wins recorded at Barbourfields.
Mpofu said he has urged his players to make sure they collect three points away from home against Makepekepe who were in second spot going into this round of fixtures.
“We really need to go to Harare and bring the three points, I am challenging the boys that Caps United must be our first set of points away from home but of course it’s an uphill task, it’s not going to be easy, we are preparing for that, we are working hard make sure that we come up with three points playing Caps United. Of course, their intention is clear, they want the league,’’ Mpofu said.
He conceded that beating Lloyd Chitembwe’s men will not be easy since their opponents are gunning for the championship.
“I have to appreciate that Caps are on second position and their intention is clear and for Highlanders to get to that position it’s an uphill, it’s not going to be easy but again I will accept if something said Highlanders are facing Caps, they are underdogs,’’ he said.
Highlanders used home advantage to the fullest when they collected all the points on offer against Chapungu and Black Rhinos at Emagumeni. They will look to build on that momentum when they face one of their toughest opponents on the domestic front.
“As much as we can carry an underdog tag but I think teams can’t take us lightly, we can overturn tables at any given time, at this moment considering that we managed to get six points in two games, it can be a motivator, the boys can be motivated and they still want to win more.”
Highlanders players need not much in terms of inspiration when they face a team like Caps United. According to Mpofu, they always want to perform at their best.
“These games when we play Caps, when we play Dynamos, its less work for a coach in terms of motivation, the boys will be motivated. It’s an edge on the technical team to say the boys they really want to put more than 100 percent. For us as coaches I think it’s just psyching them, motivating them. It’s a plus for us coaches when we play such games,’’ Mpofu said.
Highlanders head into the fixture without defensive linkman Nqobizitha Masuku who sits out after accumulating three yellow cards. Adrian Silla and Ben Musaka are the options to fill the gap left by the absence of Masuku.
Ariel Sibanda is expected to lead Bosso, with Peter Muduhwa, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Tendai Ndlovu and Andrew Mbeba making up the rearguard. MacClive Phiri was introduced last against Rhinos in what was his first time to take to the field after he broke his arm against Herentals in May. Phiri could start ahead of Mbeba this afternoon as Mpofu seeks more stability at the back.
Cleopas Kapupurika has also made a return from injury and could find his way back into the team to partner Silla, Brian Banda, the impressive Devine Mhindira and Mbekezeli Sibanda in midfield. Ray Lunga, Prince Dube, Tinashe Makanda and Bukhosi Sibanda are the attacking options for Bosso.
Caps United have made their intentions clear that they are gunning for the title this season. Joel Ngodzo, Ronald Chitiyo, Phenias Bamusi, Dominic Chungwa, Method Mwanjali are some of the players Chitembwe will bank on against Bosso.
In other fixtures lined up this afternoon, Dynamos are away to Hwange, Herentals take on ZPC Kariba, Mushowani Stars meet Ngezi Platinum Stars while Triangle square off against FC Platinum in a battle between the country’s representatives in continental competitions.