AFTER almost two months of recess, whistle will be blown this evening for the final lap of the Mainland Premier League, with six matches expected to be played at different venues in the country.
And, both the title race and relegation battle are expected to be raging until after the last round of matches this May.
Today's main focus will be at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam where defending champions Simba will be seeking a perfect start to refresh their title retention campaign, when they take on African Lyon.
Simba are top dogs after pipping Yanga at the post last season, and French coach Patrick Liewig is determined to retain the title with Felix Sunzu and Haruna Moshi 'Boban' to spearhead his attack.
He is unbothered missing key striker, Ugandan Emmanuel Okwi, who has been traded to Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel for a Tanzania record fee of $300,000 (about 480m/-). The 21-year-old Ugandan striker who joined the Mainland giants in 2010 from Ugandan side SC Villa, is now earning a reportedly $15,000 per month with his new club, almost five times from what he was earning at Simba.
Liewig will be at the touchline for the first time to lead his team in the league campaign after signing a two-year deal last month to take charge of the 18-times champions. He replaced Serbian Milovan Circkovic, who endured a tough campaign at the end of the first round of the top flight league.
Simba dropped six points in their last two games of the first round. They went down 2-0 to Mtibwa Sugar at the Jamhuri Stadium in Morogoro on November 4, before losing 0-1 to Toto Africans of Mwanza at the National Stadium on November 10, subsequently they surrendered the driver's seat to Yanga, who are now leading on 29 points, five above Simba.
Today's match will not be easy for Simba in any way because, African Lyon have massively recruited in the mini transfer window, bringing in the likes of Ibrahim Job and Shamte Ally on loan from Yanga. However, Simba will be buoyed by their two-week drill in Oman, where they also played three build up matches, winning one and losing two.
Other league matches of the day will also see Mtibwa Sugar taking on Polisi Morogoro, Coastal union of Tanga confronting Mgambo JKT at the Mkwakwani Stadium in Tanga, while Ruvu Shooting will have a date with their brothers JKT Ruvu at the Mabatini grounds in Mlandizi.
Second placed Azam FC will play host to Kagera Sugar at the Chamazi Stadium, while Arusha's JKT Oljoro will confront Toto Africans of Mwanza at the Sheikh Amri Abeid Kaluta Stadium in Arusha. Yanga who want to wrest back the title they surrendered to their archrivals last season, will be in action tomorrow at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam up against Prisons of Mbeya.
Like Simba, Yanga will come into the league fresh from their two-week training stint in Turkey and they have already shown what is in store for the fans to expect after beating South African top-tier side Black Leopards twice. They won 3-2 in their first game at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam last Saturday, before winning 2-1 again this time at the CCM Kirumba Stadium in Mwanza on Wednesday.
Definitely, Simba, Yanga and Azam have more ground to make up but, in their different ways, are ready to make fresh starts, while none of them will expect an easy game from Mtibwa Sugar, Coastal Union and the JKT teams.