18 August 2012

Zambia: League Race Hots Up

THE destiny of an intriguing battle for the 2012 MTN Premier Division League championship begins to take shape this weekend with some interesting Week 20 fixtures dotted across Zambia.

With 10 games to go before the end of the season, the mathematics of the situation have become increasingly stark for leaders Zanaco, Zesco United and defending champions, Power Dynamos as the main contenders for the K250 million top prize.

In recent weeks, however, Nchanga Rangers, Konkola Mine Police and Napsa Stars have also shown some steady progress and joined fourth-placed Red Arrows in the race for the championship.

At the other end of the table, Indeni, National Assembly, Nakambala Leopards and Roan United are all battling to preserve their top-flight status.

Zanaco v Assembly

After regaining their top spot in midweek, Zanaco hope to take another step towards winning their sixth league title today when they face relegation-threatened National Assembly at Sunset Stadium in Lusaka.

While Keagan Mumba's Zanaco are seeking to extend their winning streak and build on Wednesday's encouraging 1-0 win over Napsa Stars in their rescheduled match, Mohamed Fathy is desperate to save Assembly from dropping into the second echelon of the local league structure.

Leading the chart on 41 points, Zanaco will be banking on the efficiency of Lewis Macha, Moses Phiri and Kabuku Maunga and resilience of the likes of Mwelwa Sakala, Kunda Mushota and Vernacious Mapande to get a positive result against Assembly.

Brian Chilando, Humphrey Juma and veteran defender, Laughter Chilembe are expected to lead the Assembly search for only their fourth league victory.

Roan v Zesco

Having had its armour pierced twice in a row and surrendering the top slot , Zesco United need to rediscover its attacking verve at a resurgent Roan United this afternoon.

Zesco were consigned to their second straight loss by Konkola Blades at home last weekend and any more slip ups could jeopardise coach Wedson Nyirenda's desire to reclaim the league championship on his return to Ndola.

Turmoil bedevilled Roan's campaign this season, leading to the sacking of coach Chris Chibuye but the hiring of Bruce Mwape has brought some stability in the team that is struggling to remain afloat in the elite league.

Zesco, three points adrift Zanaco, need to return to winning ways on the road, starting with Roan to stand any realistic chance of recapturing the league title and a good performance from John Ching'andu, Potipher Zulu, Winston Kalengo, Kangwa Chileshe and Jackson Mwanza can guarantee Nyirenda's dreams.

Mwape will bank on Passmore Kangwa and Aubrey Chamulwanda to get maximum points from this fixture.

Forest v Power

Holders Power Dynamos, five points from the leaders, will hope to put their title-defence ambitions back on track after a sloppy showing in two consecutive games when they travel to a tricky hunting ground, Forest Rangers in Ndola today.

Despite enduring a see-saw campaign, Power have the ability to produce a sequence that could threaten Zanaco and Zesco's hopes of wrestling the championship from Beston Chambeshi's men.

However, the visit to Dola Hill this afternoon will shed more light on the durability of Chambeshi's expensively assembled machine.

With skipper Joseph Sitali and midfielder Thomas Nyirenda jet-lagged after international duty in South Korea, it is yet to be seen how Chambeshi will juggle his squad and get a strong line-up that can subdue a stubborn Forest at home.

Felix Nyaende, Kennedy Mudenda, Graven Chitalu and Simon Bwalya need to put their act together for Power against a Forest side that will also rely on free-scoring Zebron Njobvu, Malar Besa, Owen Kaposa and Nasha Kaya.

Another intriguing confrontation is on in Lusaka between Green Buffaloes and Red Arrows in one of the tough Week 20 fixtures, while rock-bottom Indeni host reinvigorated Nchanga Rangers in Ndola.

Struggling 11-time league champions, Nkana face tricky Konkola Mine Police in Kitwe with Konkola Blades welcoming a bruised star-studded Napsa Stars to Chililabombwe while Nakambala Leopards clash with fellow southerners, Green Eagles in Mazabuka.

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