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Derby of questions

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The country’s most revered football game is back again. As usual, businesses, especially in the Capital City, Lilongwe are expected to come to a standstill as sports enthusiasts converge on Bingu National Stadium (BNS) to witness the mouth-watering fixture.

The day is today. Time is this afternoon and the trophy is the Airtel Top 8.

Forget that this is the middle of the month when most pockets are empty.

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Never mind that, not long ago, these teams were in Lilongwe facing off in a TNM Super League game that ended 0-0.

The K2,000 entry fee is not a reason enough to restrict fans from making it to the stadium.

The hype and pomp that accompany the game remains intact.

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Just as a customer who calls a customer care centre to have his issues with a network service provider sorted out, fans make their way to BNS while expecting the derby to provide them with answers to questions bubbling in their minds.

Will Bullets’ dominance over Wanderers continue? Will the Nomads rise to the occasion amid problems rocking the team? How different will this derby be from the previous encounters? Will the Nomads allow the cup to slip through their finger-tips again? Some 90 minutes of action will provide the answers.

The local giants go into the match looking for nothing short of victory so as to date, in the final, Blue Eagles who eliminated Silver Strikers last week.

What remains now is who will play the cards right to stand a chance of grabbing the cup for the first time.

Enjoying rich vein of form, The People’s Team, who are at the summit of the Super League log table, seem favourites to progress to the final as their rivals, on an unfamiliar 12th position on the log table, are entangled in on-and-off the field challenges.

However, if history of previous derbies is anything to go by, form is a less defining factor.

Bullets, who saw off Moyale Barracks in the quarter-finals, are yet to lose a game in the league, having played nine games, won six and drawn thrice.

The Nomads have played six games and have won, drawn and lost twice each.

Wanderers need to devise ways of stopping Bullets who have been dominating the derbies recently.

In the past five seasons, Bullets have won seven games while the teams have drawn five times.

In their last league meeting in April, Bullets and Wanderers drew 0-0.

Bullets Coach, Rodgers Yasini, is not carried away with their impressive record.

“This is a different game and we should expect a different approach. This is a cup game where one has to proceed at all cost. No team is a favourite but we are ready to face them. We know what to do and I promise our supporters that we won’t disappoint them,” Yasini said.

Wanderers’ Team Manager, Steve Madeira, said the match would define their season.

“This is a semi-final match and it will be a different game compared to our previous match with Bullets.

Off course, we are coming from a defeat to Red Lions and we haven’t had a best season so far. We are the defending champions [of the Super League] and this coming game will define our season. We will try to win this game so that we can have a good season,” Madeira said.

Bullets’ Patrick Phiri, Chiukepo Msowoya, Bright Munthali, Mike Mkwate and Precious Phiri, who have been behind the team’s success so far, are all available for today’s game.

But the People’s Team have to work on finishing touch which has proven to be a big let down in recent games.

Despite creating numerous scoring chances, Bullets’ frontline has not been at its best as the team usually scores in dying minutes of most games.

Bullets will also miss the services of defence pillars Pilirani Zonda, Yamikani Fodya and Emmanuel Zoya who are injured.

But Yasini said he has enough replacements.

On the other hand, Nomads new Coach Bob Mpinganjira, who was handed the job last week after the redeployment of Yasin Osman, must come up with a scoring formula as the Nomads have been shy in front of goals.

The Nomads found their way to the semi-finals after eliminating Kamuzu Barracks through penalties in both legs; clear evidence that the team’s frontline has been on holiday.

Peter Wadabwa and Esau Kanyenda might sound a deadly combination upfront with the other optional pair of Precious Msosa and Khumbo Ng’ambi but with age catching up with the former pair, they seem to be struggling with pace and stubbornness to take on defenders.

Precious Sambani, Dennis Chembezi, Lucky Malata, Alfred Manyozo and Joseph Kamwendo are some of the names to feature for the Nomads.

With defending champions Silver shown the exit door, what is apparent though is that the Airtel cup will have new champions this year. But as for other questions, fans might wait for this afternoon.

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