‘Snakes & ladders’ – 2019/20 ZSL Season Preview: Strugglers, Pretenders and Contenders

Aligned to the recommended FIFA calendar and reconstituted to have only eighteen teams, the 2019/20 super league season’s gates go ajar on Saturday August 31 and promises crunch encounters from start to finish.

With the need to qualify for the ABSA cup and CAF competitions adding spice, there will be no room for error and every step will count just like in the board game of snakes and ladders.

Considering all transfers done, technical bench compositions and other preparations for the new season, here is what to expect.

Strugglers

This is the class where players and teams will surely give their best on match days but will struggle to cope with the demands over the entire season both due to quality of personnel and maybe off field matters.

KYSA make a quick return to the elite league but haven’t beefed up enough to upgrade on the quality they had last season in the first division. Additionally, their inability to compete favorably on the monetary side may cost them.

Mufulira wanderers with their big name should not even be in this class but their off field matters which nearly cost them last season may resurface and this time devastatingly so.

Their latest signings haven’t inspired much confidence either.

Both will struggle.

Safety first

The primary target for these will be safety.

Making it through after an intensive playoff, Kansanshi Dynamos will be after making Solwezi a fortress and having beaten both Nkana and Power Dynamos in preseason they will be in high spirits.

Once again, Lloyd Alufonso’s goals will be required.

They have survived the drop on the final day in the last two seasons but this time around they will want to secure safety early enough. Lumwana Radiants will hope that among many, Anos Tembo fires on all cylinders as he did for Green Eagles in 2018.

Radiants had a slow start last season, a quick one will help matters this time around

With their vast catchment area Nakambala leopards should have been a top club. They have been content with survival over the last few seasons and it will be their primary target again under Zeddy Saileti.

The Inconsistent

For one reason or another, these will be affected by their inconsistencies. The quality in personnel cannot be questioned but on some days lapses in concentration together with their inability to close out matches will hurt them.

They will neither fight relegation nor push for the title but will take a match as it comes and try to make the most of it.

Nkwazi FC, NAPSA Stars and Power Dynamos will be in this class.

Once again Power Dynamos will look to Rally Bwalya for inspiration

The Spoilers

These will find it hard to break certain barriers but like snakes on the board game, will bite and draw back a lot of teams.

Red Arrows last season threw Spanners in the works at Railway grounds. The same can be expected for many teams against the airmen.

With James Chamanga and Bruce Musakanya leading the charge.

Following a disappointing short CAF confederation cup stint and a host of new players, Buildcon will blow hot and cold. Their style may also change after the changes in the technical bench make up.

However, they have enough to spoil a few parties.

They boss the Ndola derbies like they boss possession on match days regardless of the opposition. Forest Rangers will feel the absence of Austin Muwowo but the arrival of Conlyde Luchanga who is expected to play alongside Zikiru Adams should soothe the pain and ensure a lot teams get lost in the forest.

Top dogs, beware.

The bite back

This will be the class of those that know they can do better than they did last season as well as those that think their quality should be able to give them more.

With Emmanuel Mayuka looking to rediscover his killer touch in their side, Green Buffaloes will be looking for a good campaign. They have moved on some dead wood and will look to put to bed their forgettable 2019 campaign.

Kabwe Warriors have never been so close to continental football as they were last season in over a decade. They will hope both their signings on the pitch and in administration take they even a notch higher this time around.

They have lost Talisman Emmanuel Okutu and exciting winger Paul Simpemba among others but their new signings give hope.

Warriors will be looking for impact both on and off the pitch

The dark horses

While the focus will be on those that finished in the top brackets last season, this class will be quietly taking advantage of slip ups elsewhere as well as maintain own momentum.

It’s never easy to predict which Nkana side pitches up but with Idriss Mbombo and Harun Shakava among their new additions and without continental engagements, they will look to hit hard.

Their depth looks good and if well utilised, Kalampa will have a fruitful campaign.

It’s not clear when the ‘cat and mouse’ game will end between Lusaka Dynamos and their players but if they manage to sort out their usual disputes and keep hold of key men, they will be a threat to Zesco’s crown.

You snooze, you lose

All teams in continental football will be looking for another good campaign

They are leading contenders due to their impressive strides made in their journeys thus far.

Both their physical and mental resolve will be tested as they try to balance continental and local football should they all make it into the group stages of the former.

Quality of both trusted starters and the supporting cast will be tested to the core as Zesco, Zanaco and Green Eagles look to lay charge toward the title.

Their technical benches are well experienced enough to know how to juggle through what could be tight and intense schedules.

Between now and 6 June 2020, all will look for ladders for elevation and avoid snakes in the quest for an excellent season.

Let the games begin.

-Zambia Daily Mail

Pictures: Clubs’ Facebook Pages

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