It’s all to play for when Bulawayo City FC take on Group B leaders Chicken Inn FC in the Chibuku Super Cup at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
The cup competition games which resumed today had been suspended as part of measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Victory for Chicken Inn will secure them passage to the tournament’s quarter-finals while defeat or draw for City will end their hopes of progressing to the next stage.
Chicken Inn top the Group B table, although they are tied on seven points with Highlanders while City and Bulawayo Chiefs are level on one point after three games.
In the reverse fixture played in May, City lost 2-0 to the Gamecocks, but the municipal side has beefed up its arsenal by signing several players.
Three unheralded players, central defender King Khumalo was signed from Second Division side FMSA Umguza, right-back Shelton Sibanda (ZPCC Munyati) and attacking midfielder Tanaka Zinaka joined from Mwenezana.
Experienced midfielder Welcome Ndiweni, who was not registered when the tournament first kicked off, has been included in the City squad.
Philani ‘Beefy’ Ncube, City’s coach, declared his side’s readiness, saying he has been impressed by the players’ positive attitude at training.
“We will give it our best and the players are raring to go. In terms of fitness, all the clubs were given 21 days to prepare, so we’re almost at the same level. Maybe the difference is on one’s application in getting players match fit. What I know is that we can sustain 80 minutes plus,” said Ncube.
“It’s going to be tricky, but it’s one game that the players have to give their all to revive our hopes of getting to the next stage. Mathematically, if we lose tomorrow, we’ve got nothing to play for other than use the remainder of the games as preparations for the league kick-off. We don’t want that kind of situation hence the need to get maximum points.”
Zinaka and Khumalo have been ruled out of today’s match after picking up knocks at training and this leaves City’s attacking hopes pinned on strikers Wisdom Mutasa, Mgcini Sibanda, Don Chinyerere and former Bosso 90 forward Dalubuhle Dlodlo.
Chicken Inn have already announced their intentions to go past the group stage, with coach Joey Antipas reporting a clean bill of health from his camp.
Chicken Inn are spoilt for choice and will look to the attacking trio of George Majika, Leeroy Ndlovu and Obriel Chirinda for goals.
Defending Chibuku Super Cup champions Highlanders host Chiefs at Barbourfields Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
In Harare, where Zimpapers television Network (ZTN) will livestream matches at the National Sports Stadium, Herentals and ZPC Kariba lock horns in a 11am fixture, with Group A leaders Dynamos taking on Yadah at 3pm.
DeMbare top the group with 14 points from six games after winning four matches and drawing twice.
It is an open group as second-placed Yadah are second on eight points and will want to keep themselves in contention for a quarter-finals berth by upsetting the apple cart.
Third-placed Caps United will tomorrow take on Harare City, who are tied on six points with ZPC Kariba.
Both Group C matches are slated for today at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare, with leaders Cranborne Bullets (5 points) taking on anchors Manica Diamonds (3 points) at 11am before Black Rhinos host Tenax in the afternoon. Rhinos and Tenax both sit on four points.
Group D pacesetters Ngezi Platinum Stars, the only side yet to drop a point since the start of the tournament, square off with Triangle United this morning at Mandava Stadium.
Second-placed FC Platinum face Whawha in the other game.
Chibuku Super Cup fixtures
Matchday 7 (Group 1): Herentals vs ZPC Kariba (National Sports Stadium, 11am), Dynamos vs Yadah (National Sports Stadium, 3pm)
Matchday 4 (Groups 2,3 and 4): Cranborne Bullets vs Manica Diamonds (Sakubva, 11am), Triangle United vs Ngezi Platinum Stars (Mandava, 11am), Chicken Inn vs Bulawayo City (Barbourfields Stadium, 1pm), FC Platinum v Whawha (Mandava, 3pm), Black Rhinos vs Tenax CS FC (Sakubva, 3pm)
Matchday 7 (Group 1): Harare City vs Caps United (National Sports Stadium, 3pm)
Matchday 4 (Group 2): Highlanders vs Bulawayo Chiefs (Barbourfields Stadium, 1pm)
Chibuku Super Cup group log standings