Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
CHAMPIONS, FC Platinum, return to domestic Premiership football action this afternoon when they host struggling Harare City on a mission to reinforce their foothold at the top of the Castle Lager Premiership table.
The platinum miners returned home on Sunday from their trip to Malawi where they played a goalless draw against Callisto Pasuwa’s Nyasa Big Bullets in their opening encounter of the African safari. They are set to have a tight schedule alternating between the Caf Champions League and the domestic Premiership.
They host the Sunshine Boys this afternoon in their two-pronged mission.
Coach Norman Mapeza’ men, however, have gone on a three-match winless run in all competitions and they need to turn the tide this afternoon to bring back confidence.
Pure Platinum Play had lost to Black Rhinos and drawn with Caps United in their last two league games but they still managed to maintain a one-point lead at the top, with a game in hand, following the slip up by their nearest rivals Black Rhinos and Chicken Inn.
Mapeza missed the last two games against Rhinos and Caps United due to sickness and his presence on the bench this afternoon should inspire his team.
FC Platinum have 32 points in the bag and they could find themselves four points clear if they manage to do the double on the Sunshine Boys whom they beat 2-0 in the opening match of the season at their own Rufaro backyard.
But Mapeza should be worried by his side’s poor conversion rate which has seen them scoring only 18 goals in 17 starts. But it is his opposite number Mark Mathe who faces a defining moment this afternoon following a poor run of results that has seen the Sunshine Boys slumping to the bottom half of the table. Mathe was elevated to the hot seat last month following the resignation of Briton, Mark Harrison, but has so far failed to pick up maximum points after losing twice and drawing three times in his opening five matches in charge.
“We take cognisance of the fact that we play FC Platinum at Mandava at their home ground. It’s a very difficult game because it’s their fortress so we are trying to work hard on how best strategy on how we can go out there and get three points.
“We need a strategy that is based more on team work and balance in attack and in defending. We also have to look at controlling the game.
“It’s an away game, I don’t think it’s a game that is going to be very open because at times if you try to open up you will expose yourselves especially playing champions like FC Platinum. We really have to be conservative and know how best to go about it,” said Mathe.
Ngezi Platinum, who have been on a 10-match unbeaten run, also have a chance to close in on the top teams in the race when they host Triangle at Baobab this afternoon.
Erol Akbay’s men are currently enjoying a purple patch and they face a potentially tough test from the Sugar Sugar Boys, who are coming from a 5-0 thrashing of little-known Burundian side Rukinzo in the first leg of the Caf Confederation Cup tournament at the weekend.
Today: FC Platinum v Harare City (Mandava), Ngezi Platinum Stars v Triangle United (Baobab)