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Big Bullets, Nomads in Airtel Top 8 grudge battle

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PLAYER TO WATCH—Yamikani Chester

Blantyre giants Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers renew their rivalry when they meet in the semifinals of the Airtel Top 8 Cup at Kamuzu Stadium this afternoon.

Surely, this is the most anticipated fixture in domestic football although it has lost its soul. At stake is Airtel Money and a place in the final of the Airtel Top 8 Cup, whose winner will get K17 million plus a trophy with the runner-up pocketing K5 million.

This is a repeat of the 2018 Airtel Top 8 Cup semifinal in which Bullets defeated their rivals 2-1 at Bingu National Stadium.

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Interestingly, both Wanderers and Bullets have never won the competition despite each reaching the finals once in three years.

The Nomads reached the final of the competition but lost 10-9 to Silver Strikers on post-match penalties at BNS in 2017 whereas Bullets lost 1-0 to Blue Eagles at the same venue in 2018.

Certainly, it will be a grudge battle between the two sides as Bullets have a score to settle against Wanderers after losing 1-0 in a second round league match—for the first time in nine years.

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Both sides boast of having talented players in domestic football capable of beating any team. In all fairness, Bullets have a dedicated and courageous squad, if history is anything to go by.

On the other hand, Wanderers have skillful and talented players, who can crash any force in domestic football.

Bullets Coach Kalisto Pasuwa sounded calm and less intimidated ahead of the derby.

“We need to have the right frame of mind and the technique to get the goals. The last time we met them we wasted several chances so these are big matches and we need to utilise every chance we create,” Pasuwa said.

Bullets have been a hard nut to crack especially at Kamuzu Stadium after one defeat in all competitions this season.

Pasuwa will likely trust goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe, with Miracle Gabeya, Gomezgani Chirwa, Nixon Nyasulu and Sankhani Mkandawire to start at the back.

Captain Chimwemwe Idana will be at the hub of the team whereas in attack, Pasuwa has plenty of options, including leading goal-scorer Babatunde Adepoju, Chiukepo Msowoya and Hassan Kajoke.

MacFallen Mgwira, Misheck Selemani and Anthony Mfune are doubtful for the match due to injuries.

Sounding calm and composed, Wanderers Coach Bob Mpinganjira believes his side will get a positive result.

“We are not under pressure. We will play our normal game to reach the final of the competition. The players are geared for the match,” he said.

Mpinganjira will have selection headache on who will start between the sticks between William Thole and Richard Chipuwa.

At the back, the Nomads have Stanley Sanudi, Yinus Sheriff, Peter Cholopi and Francis Mlimbika.

Captain Alfred Manyozo will lead the midfield alongside Yamikani Chester and Francis Mkonda. Upfront, Vincent Nyangulu is fit and available for selection.

Vitumbiko Kumwenda, Peter Wadabwa and Richard Rabson are out due to injuries whereas Bongani Kaipa is suspended after accumulating two yellow cards.

Bullets booked a date against Wanderers after beating Mafco 5-2 on aggregate. They won the first leg 3-1 before a 2-1 victory in the second leg at Chitowe Stadium.

To reach this stage, Wanderers defeated Moyale Barracks 5-4 on post-match penalties after drawing 1-1 on aggregate.

The Nomads lost 1-0 to Moyale at Kamuzu Stadium before beating the soldiers by a similar margin in the second leg at Chitowe Stadium.

The winner between Bullets and Wanderers will meet winner between Silver and Civil Service United, who will meet in another semifinal match next week.

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