By Mabvuto Kambuwe:
Malawi’s ambassadors in Confederation of African Football (Caf) club competitions, Nyasa Big Bullets and Masters Security, have mountains to climb as they battle for their lives this afternoon.
Bullets are competing in the Champions League while Masters are representing the country in the Confederation Cup.
Coach for the People’s Team, Kalisto Pasuwa, is making an emotional return to Zimbabwe when he guides his side against Norman Mapeza’s FC Platinum in the second leg at Babourfields in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Pasuwa and Mapeza are childhood friends having grown up in the same neighbourhood but the two coaches will forget their close ties as they aim at winning the contest.
The two coaches have also faced each other on several occasions in Zimbabwe’s top flight league. This means there is a lot expected in this match as they are highly respected in their home country.
But pressure will be on Platinum, who need to avoid a scoring draw after Bullets and Platinum played out a barren stalemate in the first leg at Kamuzu Stadium.
Bullets are coming from four consecutive games without a loss in all competitions including a 3-1 victory over Dwangwa United in the TNM Super League but Platinum warmed up with a 2-0 loss to Triangle United.
The Malawian club will be hoping to better last year’s results when it exited the competition after falling to Kenyan giants Gor Mahia courtesy of a 4-3 post-match penalties loss.
Platinum reached the group stages of last year’s continental club competition and will be looking to maintain that record.
After training at Harare National Stadium on Thursday, Pasuwa expressed concern over some of his players’ fitness due to fatigue.
“You could see some heavy legs during training. Chiukepo [Msowoya] has a hamstring and this is a setback. But the other players are alright. I believe they will do the job,” he said.
Bullets ’youthful squad comprising Peter Banda, Mike Mkwate, Charles Petro and Hassan Kajoke, has the potential to unsettle the hosts.
Msowoya could partner Kajoke or Patrick Phiri upfront in search of the much-needed goals.
Banda, Chimwemwe Idana and Chimango Kaira will be at the hub of the team whereas Petro, Precious Sambani, John Lanjesi and Gomezgani Chirwa will provide cover to Rabson Chiyenda.
Mapeza told The Herald that his charges were targeting positive results against Bullets.
“We have a lot of new faces and we are still trying new combinations. We will try to get a result against Bullets and see how it progresses,” Mapeza was quoted as saying.
The winner between the two teams will face either UD Songo of Mozambique or Tanzania’s Simba in the next round.
Masters are at Bingu National Stadium with hopes of turning tables against Proline of Uganda in the second leg.
The Malawian club went down 3-0 in Kampala during the first leg but Coach Abasi Makawa is still upbeat.
“Our focus is on winning the match. We know that our opponents are strong but they should not underrate us. Get it from me, Masters do not die twice,” Makawa said.
Masters are hoping to improve on their 2017 performance which saw them exit the tournament after a 5-0 aggregate loss to Petro de Luanda of Angola.