THE clash of Zimbabwe’s two most successful teams Highlanders and Dynamos, dubbed “The Battle of Zimbabwe” has probably come at the wrong time for troubled managers, Dynamos coach David Mandigora and his Highlanders counterpart Bongani Mafu.
As they prepare their teams for the clash at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday, they find themselves under fire from disgruntled fans used to toasting to success instead of the mediocre run they have had to endure from their teams so far this season.
While Dynamos has dominated their encounters against Highlanders in recent years, the defending champions have endured a three-match winless streak, drawing at home to Tsholotsho (0-0), Triangle (1-1) and away to ZPC Kariba (1-1).
The points dropped in the three matches mean Dynamos trail leaders Chicken Inn by six points. Perched in third place on 23 points, one behind second placed Triangle, Mandigora knows that a win against Highlanders will go a long way in appeasing demanding Dembare fans.
Highlanders find themselves in unfamiliar territory, eighth on the log with 19 points from 13 matches, a massive 10 behind the leaders.
Dynamos players Simba Nhivi, Qadr Amini, Obey Mwerahari and Cliff Sekete are back in training and available for selection. Ronald Chitiyo; although going through a dry patch, still remains a goal threat.
The most interesting tussle at Dynamos is for the goalkeeping position with Artwell Mukandi and Tatenda Mukuruva vying for the jersey.
Mafu goes into this match fully aware he is skirting on thin ice.
The fans, judging by their mood at last week’s mid-year review meeting at Highlanders Sports Club, are fed up and accuse the coach of having more bark than bite.
Sources also say the players are unimpressed with the coach’s tactics, adding pressure on the beleaguered coach.
Mafu needs to find a solution to stop the rot at the Bulawayo-based side despite having players that are not quite of the calibre of those who clinched the title back in 2006.
He will look to the likes of veteran striker Obadiah Tarumbwa, Knox Mtizwa, King Nadolo, Under-23 striker Thomas Chideu and Bruce Kangwa to propel the side to a crucial win over bitter rivals and pacify his detractors.
Harare City host Caps United tomorrow at Rufaro in another potential thriller.
This will be Caps’ first match under Mark Mathe who replaced Mark Harrison.
Harrison quit the club in a huff last week to take charge of Botswana premier league side Township Rollers.
Veteran coach Sunday Chidzambwa returns to the dugout after quitting Dynamos in 1999 after reaching the Caf Champions League final the previous year, as he takes his new side ZPC Kariba to face red-hot Triangle at Gibbo Stadium.
Chidzambwa, who coached the Warriors to their 2004 Africa Cup of Nations debut, was cleared of match-fixing allegations two months ago and finally penned a contract at ZPC last week to replace Saul Chaminuka, now back at Buffaloes.
Tomorrow: FC Platinum v Buffaloes (Mandava), Chicken Inn v Dongo Sawmill (Luveve), Harare City v Caps United (Rufaro, SS).
Sunday: Dynamos v Highlanders (Rufaro, SS), Whawha v Chapungu (Ascot), How Mine v Hwange (Luveve), Triangle United v ZPC Kariba (Gibbo), Tsholotsho v Flame Lily (White City).