Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
CHAMPIONS Dynamos have this week redoubled their efforts at training as they aim to maintain dominance over old rivals Highlanders in a blockbuster Castle Lager Premiership clash at Rufaro on Sunday.
It is the first instalment of the 2015 Battle of Zimbabwe Premiership clashes between the two giants of the domestic game.
Dynamos, however, have the bragging rights ahead of the massive showdown with the Harare giants having a proud record in which they have not lost a league match to their opponents in nine years and their coach David Mandigora indicated they are not leaving anything to chance and ordered his players to report for training twice each day this week.
The Glamour Boys normally hold a single practice session in the morning, but quite understandably, Mandigora appears unhappy with his team’s performance in the first half of the season.
The clash between Dynamos and Highlanders is the ultimate match for both sides and they know the immensity of the expectations. Highlanders are likely to come out in full force on a mission to break the jinx and appease their own fans, most of whom are still not convinced that young coach, Bongani Mafu, is the right man to take charge of their team following a lukewarm start to the championship marathon.
Mandigora told The Herald yesterday that he wants his team to improve continuously as they are currently lying third in the championship race, with two games remaining before the end of the first round of matches.
Interestingly, the rivals have been preparing for the past three weeks, taking full advantage of the mid-season Premier Soccer League recess, which this year, came early to pave way for the international break.
Mandigora also said he was bracing for a tough Battle of Zimbabwe.
“It always feels good whenever we play against Highlanders. So I don’t think our players will need any other form of motivation going into this game. It promises to be a good game. The players are in good spirits. They are all raring to go,” said Mandigora.
“We still have two games to go before the end of the first half of the season, so we need to be positive. We are always telling them and I think they all know that we need to improve our performance and remain focused. This is a very important game.”
DeMbare will be praying that history works in their favour again as they have always found ways of getting away with a result against one of their major opponents no matter their form.
They have won eight of the last 16 league meetings since 2007. Highlanders have been on the receiving end most of the times and the best they have done is securing draws.
But Mandigora will not be blind to the recent poor form which saw the Harare giants dropping crucial points just before the break when they drew their last three games and lost considerable ground to log leaders Chicken Inn.
DeMbare are third on the log standings with 23 points from 13 starts, six behind Chicken Inn. Highlanders are farther down the table on eighth position with 19 points in the bag. Mandigora said the league break was a blessing for his side as it was time to refocus their campaign.
They have been focusing on fine-tuning their team and played one practice match against ZIFA Northern Region Division One side Herentals College last Thursday which ended in a goalless draw.
Mandigora reckoned that the break was beneficial to his charges as it afforded more time for the recovery of some of his players like Striker Simba Nhivi, defenders Qadr Amini and Obey Mwerahari, goalkeeper Artwell Mukandi and winger Cliff Sekete, who have been struggling with injuries.
“The break was quite useful because some of our players who were injured are now back in training.
“We almost got a full squad back in training and probably the only problem we might face could be match fitness.
“But on the brighter side, the break was a good relief. Our players will come back fresh and I believe competition will be good for all the teams,” said Mandigora.
Log leaders Chicken Inn will kick start the league programme with an away tie at Dongo Sawmill on Saturday.
On the same day, CAPS United will begin Premiership life after Englishman Mark Harrison when they face former coach Taurai Mangwiro’s Harare City in a potentially interesting derby at Rufaro.
The Green Machine used the break to tour Mozambique as their players warmed up to acting coach Mark Mathe, who was Harrison’s Number Two, with a 2-1 win over Chingale de Tete last Sunday.
Saturday: FC Platinum v Buffaloes (Mandava), Chicken Inn v Dongo Sawmill (Luveve), Harare City v CAPS United (Rufaro)
Sunday: Dynamos v Highlanders (Rufaro), Whawha v Chapungu (Ascot), How Mine v Hwange (Luveve), Triangle v ZPC Kariba (Gibbo), Tsholotsho v Flame Lily (White City)