HARARE – Although all the attention in the Castle Lager Premiership is centred on the title race, an interesting battle is shaping up further down the log table.
With four teams going down this season, at least eight clubs are not yet safe from the drop which makes the relegation battle a puzzling affair.
Below, the Daily News on Sunday takes a look at the teams that could find themselves playing in Division One next year.
Tsholotsho — 9 points
It is going to be a tall order for Darlington Dodo to pull Tsholotsho out of the mess they find themselves in.
Dodo’s team is bottom of the log and some 12 points away from safety which makes them one of the leading contenders to face the chop.
Last season in their debut campaign in the top flight, Tsholotsho survived relegation by a whisker largely due to the fact that the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) reached a compromise to relegate only two teams instead of the proposed four.
Tsholotsho finished the season in 14th place on the log with 29 points just one place off the last relegation spot.
Mutare City Rovers, who were in 15th place, were also on 29 points but Tsholotsho had a healthier goal difference.
Pulling off another Houdini act seems like a big ask for Tsholotsho this time around since they are yet to get a win after 21 matches thus far.
Having failed to win a single match in their previous attempts, accumulating the necessary points to move away from the bottom of the log and out of the relegation zone is highly unlikely for Tsholotsho.
Dodo’s side still has to play against the title-chasing sides Chicken Inn, Ngezi Platinum, Dynamos and FC Platinum in their remaining 13 matches.
Bantu Rovers — 12 points
The Bantu Rovers business model is based on developing young players and selling them for profit.
The Bulawayo-based side is responsible for moulding the careers of stars like Marvellous Nakamba, Kuda Mahachi and Teenage Hadebe.
After winning promotion from the Southern Region Division One League, Methembe Ndlovu remained faithful to his philosophy and retained the bulk of the youngsters who won promotion.
The only meaningful addition to the squad was veteran full back Tapiwa Kumbuyani, who has played for Chapungu, Monomotapa, CAPS United and How Mine.
However, results have not been forthcoming on the field with Tshintsha Guluva winning three matches so far to find themselves just one place of the bottom of the log.
Bantu’s main problem is their porous defence which has conceded a sizeable 40 goals in 21 matches.
Even bottom side Tsholotsho has a better defence than Bantu having conceded 31 goals.
With such a porous defence, it’s going to be difficult for Ndlovu’s side to retain their Premiership status.
The loss of captain and striker Bukhosi Sibanda to South African First Division side Ubuntu Cape Town FC has also made the situation worse.
Sibanda was the league’s top goal scorer before he left for South Africa with 10 goals, however, that is more than half of all the goals Rovers have scored which is 19.
Hwange — 20 points
For the past three seasons, Hwange have been flirting with relegation.
The coal-miners’ luck might be running out this time around as they find themselves in 15th place on the log with 20 points from the same number of matches.
In a bid to try and escape the drop, Chipangano roped in former Gunners and Harare City coach Bigboy Mawiwi.
Mawiwi wasted no time and brought in midfielders Nathan Ziwini, Elvis Meleka and defender Crybert Muvuti.
What is going to be key for Hwange to survive the chop is how they are going to fare in their remaining home matches.
Chipangano still have to play Bantu, FC Platinum, Black Rhinos, Yadah, Highlanders and Harare City at home before the season ends.
If they win all their remaining home matches that would translate into 18 points which would take Hwange to 38 points.
Yadah — 21 points
The newly-promoted side started the season like a house on fire going for five games without a defeat.
At one point, Yadah were top of the log as they played some entertaining football leaving many to think that they might fight for the title in their maiden season in the top flight.
However, something has gone terribly wrong at the club, starting with the fall-out between club owner Walter Magaya and coach Jairos Tapera.
After their first defeat to Dynamos, Magaya was so incensed by the fact Tapera defied his team selection.
The coach was subsequently suspended for the following match in which Yadah were humiliated 7-2 by Bantu Rovers.
It seems Magaya has not learned from his mistakes and last week again barred Tapera from taking charge of the team for the trip to Baobab Stadium to face Ngezi Platinum.
Yadah received another thumping as they went down 4-1 to the log leaders.
This constant interference from Magaya will do more harm than good to the club and will greatly undermine Yadah’s survival chances.
Shabanie Mine — 22 points
The asbestos miners started the season with a draw against defending champions CAPS United before travelling to Bulawayo and stunning Highlanders 1-0 at Barbourfields Stadium.
There was a lot of optimism in the Chinda Boys camp but the team was rocked by the resignation of coach Wilson Mtekede, who was appointed the Zifa technical director.
Shabanie ended up engaging Takesure Chiragwi as coach and since then the results have been a mixed bag.
The Chinda Boys find themselves just two points off the relegation zone and if they are not careful, they will quickly return to the Central Region Division One League.
At the moment, Shabanie are on a four-game winless run having lost to Harare City, Bulawayo City, Highlanders and a draw with CAPS United.
Unless Chiragwi finds a winning formula soon, then Shabanie will definitely be going down at the end of the season.
CAPS United —18 points
The reigning champions find themselves in unfamiliar territory in 16th place on the log with 18 points.
However, due to their participation in the African Champions League, Makepekepe currently have six games in hand compared to the rest of the teams.
If they win those outstanding matches, the Green Machine could climb up to sixth place on the log.
But after losing Abbas Amidu and Ronald Chitiyo, who were the side’s most creative players, finding the back of the net has been a struggle for Makepekepe.
CAPS have only one win in their last five matches as their 2016 form seems to have deserted them.
Last Thursday, United failed to hold on to a 1-0 lead allowing bottom side Tsholotsho to equalise from the spot five minutes from time.
Now if they are not able to grind results against struggling sides like Tsholotsho, Makepekepe will find it hard to collect points in those outstanding matches.
If that is the case, United would be involved in a relegation scrap fight at the end of the season.