By Mphatso Malidadi & Mabvuto Kambuwe:
Nyasa Big Bullets Assistant Coach Peter Mponda has said the People’s Team must develop armour-plates to come-out unscratched when facing Tanzania giants Simba [Lion] SC in the preliminary round of the 2022/23 Caf TotalEnergies Champions League.
Mponda was reacting to Tuesday’s draw which Confederation of African Football (Caf) held headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.
“According to the draw, we are not surprised with it as you meet neighbouring countries. So we expected a team from Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. We just need to prepare well and develop mental toughness to progress,” he said.
Bullets will begin the campaign at home between September 9 and 11, before traveling to Dar es Salaam for the second leg, a week later.
This could be a tough fixture for Bullets as Simba boast of experienced players in the interclub competitions.
Interestingly, Simba have former Bullets and Flames winger Peter Banda.
Honestly, Bullets have an inexperienced squad, with majority of the players yet to play at this stage.
In reaction to the draw, Bullets Chief Executive Officer Suzgo Nyirenda described it as tough.
“We will take them head on. Battle lines have been drawn and they are not escaping this time around. It will be total war and the boys are determined to go a step forward than last year,” Nyirenda said.
The winner between Simba and Bullets will face either Red Arrows of Zambia or Premiro De Augosto from Angola in rounds. the second preliminary
Matches in the second preliminary round will be played between October 7 and 9, before the return leg, a week later.
Two weeks ago, Bullets Coach Kalitso Pasuwa admitted that some of his charges were undercooked for top level football.
“In Caf Champions League, you need to have structures and a lot of patience when playing, you do not run anyhow. The problem I am having is injuries of experienced players,” Pasuwa said.
Bullets have failed to go beyond the first preliminary rounds for the past three editions.
Last year, the People’s Team exited the competition on 3-2 aggregate loss to Amazulu of South Africa. Bullets won the first leg in Durban 1-0 but lost 3-1 at Bingu National Stadium.
In 2019, they lost by a similar margin to FC Platinum of Zimbabwe on aggregate whereas they were knocked out of the 2018 competition by Kenyan side Gor Mahia 4-3 on post- match penalties after 1-1 on aggregate.
Former Flames defender Moses Chavula said it is a fair draw.
“This is good for Bullets to face a big team. If you want to be champions beat the best. They have an advantage because Simba players might be below Bullets in terms of fitness as the league in Tanzania is yet to resume,” Chavula said.
Bullets last qualified for the group stages in 2004 when they were bankrolled by former President Bakili Muluzi.
Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco are the reigning champions of the Caf Champions League.