After knocking out minnows with a torrent of goals, Nyasa Big Bullets will this afternoon get a stern test in their quest to defend the Carlsberg Cup when they engage Red Lions in a quarter-final showdown at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The People’s Team has so far taken no prisoners in this campaign, scoring 14 goals in two matches against Mitundu United from the outskirts of Lilongwe whom they clobbered 8-0 before demolishing Chitetezo Mbaula Southern Region Football Association (SRFA) Premier League side Changalume Barracks 6-0.
And as if that was not enough, Bullets fired warning shots to the Zomba-based Lions with a 6-0 demolition of their ‘brothers in arms’ Kamuzu Barracks in a TNM Super League match last weekend.
But the People’s Team get a real test of their pedigree this afternoon against fellow top-flight league side whom they beat 3-0 in the first round of the league.
Bullets coach Rogers Yasin was a model of modesty yesterday, brushing off suggestions that it will again be a bed of roses for his free-scoring troops.
“We anticipate a tough match because we are playing a much stronger team that is unpredictable.
“Of course, we have been sharp in front of goal in recent games, but we should also not overlook the fact that we played minnows in the early stages and; hence, the need to exercise caution,” he said.
Yasin said other than that, they are ready for the battle. The People’s Team will be welcoming back their super-substitute Patrick Phiri from an illness, but will still be without battle-hardened winger Fischer Kondowe who is out for two weeks after picking a knock.
The coach also said they are happy with how winger Dalitso Sailesi is regaining fitness. Sailesi has returned to Bullets after terminating his contract with Zambian Premier League outfit Lusaka Dynamos.
“He had been out of action for quite a while so we did not expect him to return at full throttle, but he is getting there,” he said.
On the other hand, Lions coach Sterio Gondwe said they are not in a cold sweat with the Bullets’ current rich vein of form.
“We are not concerned with their big-margin wins, what we know is that we are playing them tomorrow [today] and we are aiming to go further in the competition.
“We will not allow to be intimidated by past results. This is a different game and the fact that they beat other teams by big margins is no guarantee that they will also beat us,” he said.
The Lions’ gaffer, whose side saw-off Nchalo United and TN Stars 2-0 and 1-0, respectively to reach the last eight, also said a victory today could be a sweet revenge for their loss in the first-round.
While Bullets will look up to the usual suspects in the likes of Phiri, Chiukepo Msowoya, Bright Munthali and Nelson Kangunje, Lions have enough armoury in Moses Nankumba, Lot Chawinga, Kumbukani Mwambene and Stevie Ziba.
In Balaka, the only remaining lower league side in the race Hangover will be hoping for an upset when they face Blue Eagles to give the soccer fraternity a feel good story of an underdog punching above its weight to defeat a giant.
Hangover coach Alfred Chikwanje yesterday said they are determined to reach the last four.
“We have nothing to lose and the pressure is on Eagles because they are the favourites.
“I have advised my players to go out there and give it their best shot and enjoy themselves. Our preparations have gone on smoothly and we believe we have come up with the right approach for the game,” said Chikwanje whose team ousted Moyale Barracks to reach the last eight.
Hangover’s Asad Jussab is also reported to have offered the players hefty bonuses should they cause another upset this afternoon. Apparently, all is not well in the Eagles camp as the players are demanding unpaid bonuses for four games.
But the cops’ chairperson Alexander Ngwala was quoted by Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) on Thursday as saying that the issue was being sorted out.
“It was just a communication breakdown, otherwise the players will be given their dues,” he said.