Chicken Inn ready for Dynamos challenge in season opener
Former champions Chicken Inn are ready for the visit of Harare giants Dynamos as the new Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League season gets underway with a mouth-watering showdown at Barbourfields Stadium on Saturday.
Both sides will be desperate to produce performances reflecting their ambitions in the new campaign, and expect the match to be played at a frenetic pace from the off.
Chicken Inn, who finished fourth last term, enjoy a superior head-to-head record against their adversaries, but returning coach Joey Antipas flatly rejects any notions of an advantage for his men going into the match.
Certainly, this is a Dynamos squad that looks completely different from the one which did duty last term, with coach Lloyd Mutasa's mix of youth and experience having provided some major talking points during preseason.
"History is history, and we are looking now at the 2018 season which is just kicking off," Antipas told KweséESPN. "So the only advantage that we have is that we are playing at home, but otherwise we just have to go out there and give our best.
"One thing about Dynamos is that they are a good side under a good coach, and we will need to play as well as we can and be ready for them."
Chicken Inn have themselves recruited a number of interesting signings, although they will be keen for continuity following last term, having help the majority of their squad intact.
Midfielder Wellington Kamudyariwa and Simon Munawa, signed from Highlanders and Yadah respectively, will add competition, while former How Mine defender Kudzai Chideu should strengthen a defence which was one of the league's best last term.
Chicken Inn's biggest undoing, however, could be the failure to address the attacking problems which dogged them last term, ensuring they failed to find the net which any semblance of consistency.
Antipas himself bemoaned the absence of quality strikers on the market during preseason, and will hope that his current crop of attackers will improve on last season's woeful return.
His opposite number Lloyd Mutasa meanwhile goes into the encounter unsure how his side will perform this weekend, having demonstrated a worrying inconsistency during preseason.
Mutasa has made no secret of his title ambitions this term, but the previously boisterous tone among Dynamos supporters following impressive preseason victories over rivals CAPS United and Highlanders has somewhat died down.
Dynamos have since lost to Zambian outfit Buildcon and newly promoted Mutare City, and the neutrals are eagerly waiting for a more reliable indicator of the team's true strength over the next few weeks.
They've also struggled with some in-house turmoil in recent months, as the majority of their senior players at one time boycotted training for over a week in protest over unpaid bonuses.
For the club's supporters, however, some exciting moments are in the offing following the unveiling of teenage sensation Kudzanai Dhemere and the arrival of former How Mine midfielder Marvelous Mukumba.
Dynamos are without the injured duo of Pearce Makaha and Emmanuel Mandiranga for the trip to Bulwayo, while the availability of key frontman Christian Ntouba remains shrouded in doubt following some contractual disagreements over the weekend.
Bulawayo City vs. Chapungu (Luveve)
Ngezi Platinum vs. Herentals (Baobab)
ZPC Kariba vs. FC Platinum (NSS)
Nichrut vs. Mutare City (Mandava)
Yadah Stars vs. Bulawayo Chiefs (Rufaro) Chicken Inn vs. Dynamos (Barbourfields)
Highlanders vs. Black Rhinos (Barbourfields)
Shabanie Mine vs. Triangle (Mandava)
CAPS United vs. Harare City (NSS)