Just like the title race, which was blown wide open by defending champions FC Platinum’s 1-0 victory over log leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars at Mandava Stadium last Saturday, the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League relegation battle will likely go down to the wire.
Eight rounds of fixtures remain in the 2023 campaign and as things stand, mathematically, 10 teams are battling to survive the chop.
Only two points separate Simba Bhora in 9th place to ZPC Kariba in 15th, in what could turn out to be one of the most intriguing relegation dogfights in the history of the country’s top-flight league.
ZPC, Triangle United, Black Rhinos and Cranborne Bullets occupy the dreaded bottom four positions.
Even Harare giants CAPS United, whose incredible nosedive has seen them go from early pacesetters to relegation candidates, are firmly in the fight for survival.
While Makepekepe somewhat eased their relegation worries with a crucial 1-0 win over Hwange on Sunday —their first victory since July, Lloyd Chitembwe’s charges, who currently occupy 12th position, are far from safety.
Only goal difference separates the ailing Harare gaints from 15th placed Triangle United.
Relegation-threatened teams’ form guide and remaining fixtures;
SIMBA BHORA (9th place —32 points)
Tonderai Ndiraya’s men have won three of their last five matches and appear to have found form at the right time.
They went to Chisumbanje and demolished fellow Premiership new boys GreenFuel 3-0 before hammering Highlanders by the same scoreline at Baobab on Saturday.
Remaining fixtures —Bulawayo Chiefs (Away), CAPS United (home), Triangle United (away), Herrentals College (home), Manica Diamonds (away), Ngezi Platinum Stars (home), ZPC Kariba (away), Black Rhinos (home).
BULAWAYO CHIEFS (10th place —32 points)
The Ninjas have lost their last two matches, a setback which has resulted has seen them sink into the relegation matrix for the umpteenth time.
Their loss to Sheasham at Bata on Sunday was their 10th defeat in a campaign in which three coaches —Lizwe Sweswe, Joseph Sibindi, and Johanisi Nhumwa —have been in the Amakhosi dugout.
Remaining fixtures —Simba Bhora (home), Cranborne Bullets (away), Highlanders (home), GreenFuel (away), CAPS United (home), Triangle United (home), Herrentals College (away), Manica Diamonds (home)
GREENFUEL (11th place —32 points)
Buoyed by the homologation of their stadium —GreenFuel Arena in Chisumbanje, the Premiership debutants will be desperate to extend their stay in the country’s top-flight league.
Rodwell Dhlakama’s troops ended their miserable run of three consecutive losses with a crucial 1-0 victory over bottom-placed Cranborne Bullets on Sunday.
Remaining fixtures —Black Rhinos (away), Highlanders (home), FC Platinum (away), Bulawayo Chiefs (home), Chicken Inn (away), CAPS United (home), Dynamos (away), Triangle United (home)
CAPS United (12th place —30 points)
The Harare giants’ colapse is there for all to see. They were on top of the table after matchday four, having conceded no single goal.
But a run of 10 games without victory saw them sink into the relegation battle.
Their next match against Sheasham at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday is a relegation clash.
Remaining fixtures —Sheasham (home), Simba Bhora (away), Cranborne Bullets (home), Highlanders (away), Bulawayo Chiefs (away), GreenFuel (away), Triangle United (away), Herrentals College (home)
SHEASHAM (13th place —30 points)
The Construction Boys have struggled in their debut campaign in the Premiership.
But the arrival of Sweswe has brought hope as far as surviving relegation is concerned.
The Gweru-based side are on a three game unbeaten run, which has resulted in them leap out of the dropzone.
Remaining fixtures —CAPS United (away), Triangle United (home), Herrentals College (away), Manica Diamonds (home), Ngezi Platinum Stars (away), ZPC Kariba (home), Black Rhinos (away), FC Platinum (home)
YADAH (14th place —30 points)
The Miracle Boys have won three of their last five matches.
Maxwell Takaendesa Jongwe’s charges have done themselves a huge favor in the last two matches —by beating two sides who are also in the relegation battle —Triangle United and CAPS United.
Remaining fixtures —Herrentals College (away), Manica Diamonds (home), Ngezi Platinum Stars (away), ZPC Kariba (home), Black Rhinos (away),
ZPC Kariba (15th place —30 points)
Consistence has been the biggest problem for Luke Masomere’s men.
They lost two consecutive games before returning to winning ways against Herentals on matchday 23, only for them to suffer another loss —against Black Rhinos last Saturday.
Worryingly for the Kariba-based, they welcome in form defending champions FC Platinum, at Nyamhunga on Saturday.
Remaining fixtures —FC Platinum (home), Chicken Inn (away), Dynamos (home), Yadah (away), Hwange (home), Sheasham (away), Simba Bhora (home), Cranborne Bullets (away)
Triangle United (16th place —26 points)
The Sugar Boys are in big trouble —no win in their last five matches —a record which is simply not good for a team fighting for survival.
Thulani Sibanda’s men have won only four games this season and have to be at their best to survive the chop.
Remaining fixtures —Hwange (home), Sheasham (away), Simba Bhora (home), Cranborne Bullets (away), Highlanders (home), Bulawayo Chiefs (away), CAPS United (home), GreenFuel (away)
BLACK RHINOS (17th place —23 points)
Chauya Chipembere need to start winning games to entertain any chance of surviving the chop and head coach Saul Chaminuka is fully aware of that.
They have won two and drawn one of their last five league matches.
Remaining fixtures —GreenFuel (home), FC Platinum (away), Chicken Inn (home), Dynamos (away), Yadah (home), Hwange (away), Sheasham (home), Simba Bhora (away)
CRANBORNE BULLETS (18th place —21 points)
Nesbert ‘Yabo’ Saruchera’s troops need a quasi-maggical turnaround to avoid the chop.
Their 1-0 victory over Simba Bhora on matchday 25 was only their 5th this season season and one in their last 5 matches after four consecutive defeats.
Remaining fixtures —Highlanders (away), Bulawayo Chiefs (home), CAPS United (away), Triangle United (home), Herrentals College (away), Manica Diamonds (home), Ngezi Platinum Stars (away), ZPC Kariba