Fungai Muderere, Senior Sports Reporter
MATCHES between Highlanders and FC Platinum are always eagerly anticipated but Saturday’s meeting between the two at Barbourfields Stadium has been amped up further courtesy of the presence of former Hendrik Pieter de Jongh in the away dugout.
De Jongh, a former Highlanders coach, has never locked horns with his ex-employers whom he turned his back against after enjoying a six months journey that saw Bosso clinch the Chibuku Super Cup to secure a ticket to take part in the Challenge Cup, a season’s opener they will play against Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions, FC Platinum.
The temperamental De Jongh returns to Emagumeni for the first time since to guard the platinum miners against a local side and the presence of acid tongued Mark Harrison in the Bosso technical bench makes the 2020 local season curtain raiser an unquestionably thriller.
Here are five things we expect to happen…..
1 Harrison’s tactical ability to be tested to its very limit
The 59-year old Harrison who has previously worked with Caps United and Harare City bounces bounced back to coach a local side after a year and appears reinvigorated and revitalised by this new challenge bestowed upon him by the Bulawayo football giants.
His bubbly deportment thus far is in stark contrast to the doom-and-gloom figure that cast a shadow over Harare City in 2018.
The Briton has made all the right noises so far: he has veterans Mkhokheli Dube, and Mitchell Katsvairo, Aces Youth Academy product Collin Mujuru, defender Cardwell Gavaza, Humphrey Ncube, goalkeeper Chris Mverechena to give a balance to a Bosso squad that lost Denzel Khumalo, McClive Phiri, Ben Musaka and Munyaradzi Chitambwe early this year.
This game, though, will test Harrison’s tactical ability to its very limit against his predecessor. As much as the Briton has been keen to portray himself as the humble one at Bosso, he will want more than anything to get one over on De Jongh’s FC Platinum.
- Dominating the midfield battle key to Platinum hopes
This is, without doubt, is going to be the most difficult run of De Jongh’s managerial career to date.
He took charge of a free spending outfit who are smarting from a CAF Champions League exit. The development has been coupled with the coach’s hiring of a number of players that include foreign internationals.
With forgotten former Warriors midfielder Silas Songani now in their ranks De Jongh’s side has enough about them to secure a positive result, particularly in the midfield area where there is also ex Bosso livewire Rahman Kutsanzira, former Triangle United skipper Ralph Kawondera, ex Bosso’s Denzel Khumalo and the exciting duo of Last Jesi and Stanley Ngala.
It would come as a major surprise if he deviated away from this best possible attacking line up against Bosso. Between the six mentioned players, there is the perfect blend of industry, passing ability (both short and long), dribbling qualities and ball-winning capabilities.
It is the one area of the pitch in which FC Platinum have been superior over the years and they can get the better of Bosso particularly if Harrison continues with a stodgy pairing of Nqobizitha Masuku and Adrian Silla in front of the back four.
If Pure Platinum Play would be able to make their midfield quality count their chances of feeding an exciting frontline and protecting a vulnerable backline will be far greater.
- Mkhokheli Dube to continue his good pre-season finerun
From debuting for Highlanders while he was still wet behind his ears, to dazzling in United States of America and South Africa before he came back to get three championship medals with FC Platinum, Mkhokheli Dube’s career has only ever gone in one direction: up.
Dube (37), who has been on target since tracking back to his boyhood club early this year, has shown so much hunger to make sure that he doesn’t hit a speed hump.
For Dube, whom many had questioned why he was being allowed to retrace his footsteps at such an advanced stage, it seems the goals have not dried up, the impudent tricks and flicks have not disappeared.
Dube’s “return” to form is bad news for Pure Platinum Play, a club he served well since mid-2017.
- More Attacking formations
Unless either manager springs a surprise, Platinum will set out in a 4-2-3-1 and Bosso in a 4-3-3 for the game.
Each system calls upon on wide attacking players to make a difference in the final third thus Jesi and Katsvairo will be expected to explode from the wings for De Jongh and Harrison respectively.
Jesi is one of the few Platinum players whose good form saw them give a fair account of themselves in the African Safari as he predated on several rearguards and he will hope to continued to blossom under new management.
- Goals galore
Traditionally, this fixture guarantees goals and given both of these teams are stronger in attack than they are in defence, it would be a huge shock if local football enthusiasts are starved of a goals galore.