HIGHLANDERS ageless midfielder Mthulisi Maphosa is set for a return to the black and white army after two months on the sidelines due to injury, when the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League leaders face Bantu Rovers at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday.
Maphosa was injured in April when Highlanders drew 1-1 with Hwange at Barbourfields Stadium, but could be available as Boss seek a third win in a row after victories over Black Rhinos (3-1) and How Mine (2-1).
Should they win on Sunday, it will be the first time this season they would have managed three wins in a row.
Head coach Kelvin Kaindu yesterday said Maphosa was recovering.
“Mthulisi has made tremendous progress. He is improving. We are not quite sure if he is ready to play a full competitive match. Rahman Kutsanzira is still out injured,” he said.
Last week, Kaindu said they were assessing the two, but they did not feature against Black Rhinos although Maphosa was on the substitutes bench.
Bosso are top of the log table with 27 points from 14 games while Bantu Rovers have found the going tough winning four games, drawing twice and losing eight matches and collecting 14 points in the process.
Going into the match Bantu Rovers know it is possible to cause an upset as they have already beaten city rivals How Mine 3-1 before they collected maximum points in the second derby by dismissing Chicken Inn 2-1 at Luveve Stadium.
Kaindu said the fact that Bantu Rovers were coached by a former Bosso gaffer presented a tough task ahead.
“Derbies are never easy. Some of the Bantu Rovers players are former Highlanders players, so this makes it difficult. They are also coached by a former Bosso player and coach. The better team of the day will win the match,” he said.
“We need to guard against complacency because when teams play against us they will be totally different teams.”
The Zambian coach said he was happy to have Erick Mudzingwa back after missing the derby against How Mine through suspension while saying the player who would come in for the suspended Welcome Ndiweni will have to perform well as he has been doing.
Bantu Rovers coach Methembe Ndlovu said they would play for a good result.
“It is a derby, but we want to treat it just like any other game because we do not want to put ourselves under unnecessary pressure. We are not in a good position on the log standings, so we need to get a good result. We need to start collecting as many points as we can in the coming matches,” he said.
“We have won the other derbies (against Chicken Inn and How Mine), but we are not reading much into that. That is history and we are now focusing on the Highlanders match.”
Bantu will miss the services of Fortune Ncube who is nursing an injury while Lawson Nkomo is also out injured.
Nkomo, a former Bosso rightback, limped off in the 15th minute making way for Bukhosi Sibanda in the 1-1 draw against Triangle at Luveve Stadium on Monday.
Bantu Rovers have former Highlanders players who include Obadiah Tarumbwa, Zephaniah Ngodzo, veteran Hebert Dick, who made a surprise return to the top flight against Triangle on Monday, and Patrick Mpofu in their squad.
Ndlovu will bank on Nqobizitha Masuku, Master Mlangeni, Teenage Hadebe, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Proud Zireni, Tafadzwa Ngwena, Thandazani Ndlovu while hoping that goalkeeper Takunda Mutanga would get enough cover from the defence to keep a clean sheet.
Masuku, a skilful and decisive player on his day, is a target for Highlanders during this transfer window.
Charles Sibanda, in-form Joel Ngodzo, Knox Mutizwa, Valentine Ndaba, Hillary Madzivanyika, Mudzingwa, Simon Munawa, Innocent Mapuranga, Bruce Kangwa and Ariel Sibanda are Kaindu’s trusted options.
With Bosso leading the pack, their focus will also be on the outcome of the Harare derby pitting Dynamos and Caps United who are second and third, at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday. Both teams are on 26 points.
Highlanders will know that should ZPC Kariba beat Chicken Inn in Harare this afternoon and move to 27 points, the pressure will definitely be on them to win the Bulawayo derby.