The stage is set for the biggest domestic fixture as arch-rivals Mighty Mukuru Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets face off in the semi-final of the 2022 FDH Bank Cup at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe this afternoon.
This is a make-or-break tie for both sides as they fight for a maiden slot in the final.
During the inaugural edition last year, Bullets were eliminated in the quarterfinals with a 4-3 loss to Silver Strikers on post-match penalties following a 2-2 stalemate in regulation time.
Silver went on to thump Wanderers 3-0 in the semi-final last season.
However, there is renewed hope in the Nomads’ camp ahead of the match, having beaten Silver 1-0 in a league fixture.
Bullets head into the match having exited the 2022 Caf Champions League after a 4-0 loss on aggregate to Simba.
Wanderers have the odds stacked against them in cup matches, having lost two semi-final encounters and winning one against their rivals since 2015.
The two teams also met at the same stage in the Airtel Top 8 Cup last year, with Bullets winning 4-1 at Kamuzu Stadium.
Bullets also prevailed 2-0 over their bitter rivals in 2018 at BNS in the Airtel Top 8 Cup.
Wanderers’ last cup triumph over Bullets was a 2-1 win in a Carlsberg Cup semi-final meeting at Civo Stadium in 2015.
League statistics also favour Bullets as the Nomads have only beaten them once since 2012.
This is a perfect opportunity for Wanderers to exorcise the demons that have haunted them against Bullets in cup games.
This season, Wanderers and Bullets have met twice in the league.
In the first round, Bullets beat Wanderers 2-1, with the second round match ending in a 3-3 draw.
During the second round derby at Kamuzu Stadium, the two sides turned back the hands of time as the match lived up to expectations.
Bullets coach Kalisto Pasuwa said his troops need to exercise caution this afternoon.
’’Wanderers are one of the most experienced teams in the country and we don’t need to underrate them. This is a cup game and we will throw everything into the match.
“The derby is a motivation on its own to the players. For one to be called champions, you need to rise from the dead,’’ Pasuwa said.
Bullets have fitness concerns ahead of the match, with Babatunde Adepoju, Alick Lungu, Righteous Banda and Lanjesi Nkhoma being doubtful for the match.
However, Bullets boast of dedicated and courageous players capable of beating any team in domestic football.
Players such as Chimwemwe Idana, Hassan Kajoke, Patrick Mwaungulu and John Lanjesi are potential match winners.
On the other hand, Wanderers are a changed side under Alex Ngwira and have not lost a match since he took over.
Ngwira believes his charges have all it takes to win the match.
’’We are not under pressure. We have told the players to believe in themselves. As usual, we expect a very tough match which can go either way. Our mission is to grab a cup this season and we will fight for it,’’ Ngwira said.
The Lali Lubani Road side does not have much to worry about as it has all players available for selection.
Muhamad Sulumba, Chiukepo Msowoya, Yamikani Chester, Vincent Nyangulu and Miracle Gabeya are carrying Wanderers’ hopes this afternoon.
The winner between Bullets and Wanderers will face Nyasa Big Bullets Reserve who defeated Extreme FC 2-1 in the first semi-final last week.
A whooping K25 million awaits the champion whereas the loser will pocket K8 million.
Silver won the inaugural edition after beating Ekwendeni Hammers 2-0 at BNS last year.
Road to the semi-final:
Bullets defeated Sable Farming 3-1 in the round-of-32 before eliminating Moyale Barracks 4-2 on post-match penalties after a thrilling 4-4 draw in regulation time.
In the quarterfinals, Bullets overcame Chitipa United 2-0 at Rumphi Stadium.
Wanderers started their FDH Bank Cup journey with a 4-1 post-match penalty win over Kamuzu Barracks Reserve after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time in the round-of-32.
In the round-of-16, Wanderers demolished Dedza Dynamos 3-0 before hammering Kamuzu Barracks 4-1 in the quarterfinals.