There is no hiding place; absolutely nowhere. All doubts, questions, theories, records and arguments have to be settled on Kamuzu Stadium summer afternoon Saturday when the latest instalment of Blantyre derby is premiered.
Proud leaders, defending champions and record league winners, Bullets step on the artificial turf with an awe-inspiring clean slate of being unbeaten all season in the league’s 16 games while sitting 12 points clear of seventh-placed Wanderers.
The question is can the Bullets maintain their invincibility? A 2-1 first round beating of the Nomads proved that the Peoples Team are not afraid of any opposition.
To beat Bullets is to first conquer their strong spirit and unity. Unfortunately, the red side of town remains steadfast in unity–on and off the pitch, team manager Rahim Ishmael agrees.
“It is an important game. We have a record to protect. If we can’t win, then at least we should get a draw. We expect Wanderers to come hard on us. This game is not just about talking, you have to translate on the pitch. It is about showing character and spirit,” Ishmael said Friday.
With attacker Jaffalie Chande able to burst from the deep and sneak in a goal, left-back Yamikani Fodya unafraid to weigh in his ever-improved displays with set-piece goals, the Bullets should make light of the absence of injured leading scorer, Chiukepo Msowoya.
Afterall, sweeper Sankhani Mkandawire is back to shore the defensive department that will miss goalkeepers, Vincent Gona and Owen Chaima, through illness and injury. Dalitso Sailesi and Henry Kabichi are other potential match winners.
Step in Wanderers
Untouchable in cup games with Carlsberg Cup seized from the noses of the Bullets and a Standard Bank Knock-Out semifinal place sealed, it is hard to believe the Nomads, like a helpless boy watching a kyte getting out of sight, stand a distant seventh place.
Transfering cup form to the league is a jigsaw puzzle Wanderers are yet to solve. And the concern is that the Nomads are winless in the league at the Blantyre stadium since June.
Wanderers last beat Mzuni 2-1 at the venue and the rest have been defeats or draws with Kamuzu Barracks being the latest visitor to snatch three points from the Elia Kananji side.Wanderers have lost four league games this far.
Kananji would have surely loved to have his best arsenal today, but strikers Ishmael Thindwa, Jabulani Linje and defender Francis Mlimbika remain unavailable after months on the injury sidelines. Midfielder Rafik Musa is also a big doubt through a stomach upset.
Kananji insists his charges are still ready. Depth in squad mean that Muhamad Sulumba can continue with his telepathic understanding with Luka Milanzi in attack with Victor Nyirenda lurking on the bench.
Midfield department is the Nomads strongest with richest of talent such as Isaac Kaliyati who should start on the left wing with Ibrahim Sadiki manning the opposite flank with his mazy runs.
Kondwani Lufeyo is the Nomads best defender and leader. However, this is the game that could be won or lost in midfield. Wanderers’ captain Richard Chipuwa said winning today is not a matter of taste.
“If we do, then we can turn the corner. If we don’t, then the league campaign will be over for us,” Chipuwa noted.
Wanderers’ vice-general secretary, Christopher Kananji, could not agree more: “If we do not beat Bullets no one else will. If we do then the rest will do the same. We have to lead the way.”
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