Sunday’s TNM Super League derby between Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers could define the season for both Blantyre teams whose form has been in sharp contrast like day and night.
In as far as this season is concerned, it is not only the sharp hues of blue from red that makes Bullets and Wanderers so incompatible foes.
Bullets have uncharacteristically dropped down the drain irretrievable 10 points, having collected 18 points from 11 games against a maximum of 33.
Compare to 28 points from 11 games for Wanderers; then the contrast becomes loudly clear.
It is not only about current form, but Bullets seem to be going through a transition. In the other camp, Wanderers seem to be arriving at the end of the cycle of their rebuilding.
Five years ago, the Nomads bought the then under-17 players such as Francis Mulimbika, Peter Nselema (now at Masters Security FC), Mike Kaziputa and Bongani Kayipa, who have now matured to become the team’s backbone.
It was a long-term investment that did not bear instant fruits but one that ensured that the team was together for a considerable number of years.
This season, Wanderers have depth and quality, hence are capable of dealing with suspensions and injuries.
The same cannot be said of Bullets.
With coach Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan yet to return from suspension and most players struggling for form and playing on names, Bullets are in a very unfamiliar territory of form.
It is the sort of territory of struggles which the Nomads were becoming accustomed to in the 11 years they have not won the league title.
However, in as far as the Super League title contest is concerned, nothing is beyond reach yet as there are no guarantees that Wanderers will maintain their form in the second round. The Nomads have complacency and squad harmony to manage.
For this reason, most agree that tomorrow’s meeting at Bingu National Stadium could define the season for both teams.
Wanderers, who go into the match minus kingpin Joseph Kamwendo, Francis Mulimbika and Ted Sumani, are slight favourites on paper, but derbies know no form.
Yamikani Chester, Rafik Mussa or Rafik Namwela can step into Kamwendo’s shoes but what they will miss is his inspiration. Kamwendo plays with character.
At left-back, Wanderers Coach, Yasin Osman, can plug the hole with either Lufeyo or Kayipa, but there is no doubt that Mulimbika will be missed.
Bullets have defensive headache to deal with the absence of John Lanjesi and Miracle Gabeya whereas upfront, there is a lack of that cutting edge.
The final ball seems to lack the quality.
Emmanuel Zoya can be pushed to central defence to provide cover with Bashir Maunde or George Nyirenda as possible replacements for Gabeya. A more collective approach to defending could be key to Bullets tomorrow.
A win for Bullets would inspire them into a strong first round finish and they can build on that in the second round.
Maximum points for the Nomads, too, would go a long way in consolidating the gains they have made this season. A derby can make or break a season. Bring it on.
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