The Airtel Top 8 has eluded Southern Region-based teams since it was launched four years ago. Could this be their year?
It all starts this afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium where Blantyre-based giants Nyasa Big Bullets host Mafco FC before Mighty Wanderers take on Moyale Barracks tomorrow at the same venue.
For Bullets, they are not just the Super League champions searching for the first Airtel Top 8 honours, coach Callisto Pasuwa will also be gunning for his first cup since joining the club three years ago.
What makes this afternoon’s fixture interesting is that there is no love lost between Bullets and Mafco.
The Salima-based Malawi Defence Force side held the People’s Team to 0-0 and 1-1 draws in the first and second round respectively.
This, according to Bullets assistant coach Peter ‘Mjojo’ Mponda, is the reason the hosts have to approach the game cautiously.
He said: “We need to utilise home ground advantage. We need to win convincingly. Not 1-0 or 2-1 because we are meeting them in the second leg at their backyard.
“If we don’t finish the job here, we will be under pressure in the second leg.”
Captain Chimwemwe Idana carries the weight of taking his side to glory after an illustrious 2021 season.
But they play a side that is good at passing, utilises deadballs and plays as a unit under the leadership of enterprising defender Paul Ndhlovu.
On any given day, Mafco can match the star-studded Bullets pound-for-pound.
However, the Salima-based side’s assistant coach Yohane Fulaye said they expect a tough match as Bullets now know that Mafco are no longer pushovers.
He said: “What we learned from those matches is that when playing Bullets you need to score more goals if you are to beat them.
“We conceded an equaliser in our last game because we did not score more goals. We took it for granted that we were leading with one goal.
“This time we need to be very careful. We need to score more goals and ensure that we don’t commit silly mistakes in defence.”
After this afternoon’s match, attention will shift to tomorrow’s showdown between Wanderers and another MDF outfit, Moyale Barracks.
The Kaning’ina Lions edged Wanderers 1-0 in the first round of the Super League at Mzuzu Stadium and to held the Nomads 0-0 at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre in the second round.
Wanderers coach Bob Mpinganjira said they learned a lesson from the two encounters.
He said: “Playing Moyale Barracks has never been easy. They are tough. It doesn’t matter that we are playing at home. This is a cup game.
“But we are ready. Our players are in perfect condition for the match.”
Fresh from Mbeya, Tanzania, where they won an inter-country military games trophy, the Northern Region giants have captain Lloyd Njaliwa leading the assault on the Nomads.
Moyale coach Pritchard Mwansa said they are in Blantyre to do half the job.
He said: “It’s good that we are starting away. We need to do half the job here and finish at home.”
After day one and two, the action resumes next weekend as defending champions Silver Strikers begin their title defence with a home tie against TN Stars of Kasungu at Nankhaka ground on November 13.
Civil Service United (Civo) and Karonga United wrap up the quarter-final first legs at Civo Stadium on November 14.