Silver Strikers start their defence of the Airtel Top 8 Cup against TN Stars at Chitowe Stadium this afternoon in what is the headline fixture this weekend.
Buoyed by their triumph in the FDH Bank Cup where they beat Ekwendeni Hammers 2-0 in the final last month, Silver will be looking to utilise borrowed home ground advantage, having been barred from playing at home.
On the part of Stars, they are brimming with confidence after robust preparations which included a 3-1 win over Civil Service United last week.
The two teams shared fortunes this season as Silver thrashed Stars 4-0 in the league on April 5, 2021 but the Kasungu-based side stunned the Bankers 1-0 at Kasungu Stadium on May 29, 2021.
Silver have rich history in this competition, having won it twice in three years. In 2017 they beat Mighty Wanderers 10-9 on post-match penalties and in 2019 they defeated Karonga United 1-0.
Blue Eagles won it in 2018 after beating Nyasa Big Bullets 1-0 at Bingu National Stadium.
On the part of Stars, they are still searching for their first ever silverware in top flight football.
Silver Assistant Coach Macdonald Yobe said his charges were ready to start their cup defence on a high note.
“We have to exercise caution in the first leg. This is a crucial match for us but the players are ready for it,” Yobe said.
This afternoon, Silver will be without midfielder Tawonga Chimodzi, goalkeeper Brighton Munthali and defender Nickson Mwase, who are part of the Flames squad.
Maxwell Phodo is also out due to injury.
However, Silver coach Daniel Kabwe has plenty of options in all departments. Kabwe will likely trust Chisomo Mpachika, Maxwell Paipi, Mark Fodya and Mike Robert at the back to provide cover to goalkeeper Charles Thom.
In midfield, Silver have several options including Young Chimodzi Junior, Zebron Kalima, Blessings Tembo and Patrick Macheso.
Striker Stain Davie will face his former club and will likely partner Patrick Macheso upfront.
On the part of Stars, they are no pushovers having assembled a good squad comprising experienced and young players.
Stars Coach Joseph Malizani believes he can use a small knife to cut a big tree.
“We had good preparations. Our focus is on the Airtel Top 8 Cup and we believe, we can do something special this year,” he added.
In this encounter, Stars will miss the services of striker Chiletso Zoya due to injury. Goalkeeper Blackson Kotei will likely start between the sticks for Stars whereas Blessings Josephy, John Chalamanda, Yamikani Bisala and Mike Milanzi will likely start at the back.
On a good day, Stars midfield comprising Symon Chimenya, Flackson Saka, Andrew Shaba and Innocent Chipolopolo can cause plenty of problems.
China Chirwa and Fabio Kapinde are also potential match winners.
In another quarterfinal first leg, Civil Service United will host 2019 runners-up Karonga United at Silver Stadium on Sunday.
The second leg will start next week with Moyale Barracks hosting Mighty Wanderers at a venue yet to be identified.
Moyale won 1-0 in the first leg at Kamuzu Stadium. Mafco will host Bullets at Chitowe Stadium next week. Bullets won the first leg 3-1 in Blantyre.
The champion of this year’s competition will walk away with K17 million whereas the runner-up will get K5 million.