Local football heavyweights Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers clash this afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium in a TNM Super League contest that could prove to be a high stakes game.
Apart from the usual pride, there is more in today’s Blantyre derby between these age-old rivals.
The three points at stake would see either team closing the gap on league leaders two top teams—Blantyre United —as the two giants seek to end their respective lengthy league title droughts.
Bullets are third with 39 points, three behind Blantyre United.
Nomads are fourth with 35 points.
Also at stake is the Carlsberg Malawi sponsorship deal. Having won one cup apiece—Standard Bank Knockout Cup for Wanderers and Presidential Cup for Bullets— both teams are determined to bag full points in order to increase their chances of winning a permanent sponsorship deal from the giant brewer.
So today’s encounter is expected to produce fireworks as each side want to give their fans a memorable happy New Year’s gift.
On paper statistics favour Wanderers. They have had an upper hand over Bullets in league encounters of the past five seasons.
The Nomads have won six encounters, including a 2-1 victory in the first round, while Bullets have managed only two 3-1 wins in the first rounds of the 2007 and 2010 seasons.
Three encounters have ended in draws.
The Lali Lubani Road boys, as Wanderers are affectionately called by their fans, have also dominated in official cup games beating Bullets in the Standard Bank Knockout Trophy semi-finals this year.
But Bullets assistant coach Gerald ‘Papa’ Phiri Snr believes this afternoon will mark the turning point in their fortunes against their rivals.
“Wanderers have really dominated us, but we are determined to change all that and we know they are beatable. We beat them twice this year in the Fama Bonanza and Carlsberg Cup Shield so we can do it again.
“However, we are aware that whenever we play Wanderers it is always a tough contest because there is pride at stake and we will be cautious,” said Phiri.
The People’s Team are coming from a disappointing 2-all draw at home against Mafco FC.
On the other hand, the Nomads had a good trip in the North where they managed to collect four points following a 0-0 draw against Moyale and a 3-0 win over Kabwafu in the absence of their three key players— Joseph Kamwendo, Moses Chavula ad Foster Namwela—who were with the Flames in South Africa.
Nomads coach Felix Fosko said today’s game is very important as they seek to reduce the gap with Bullets to just a point.
“We are geared for this match. It will determine our destination in the fight for the title so we expect nothing short of a win,” said Fosko.
The centre of attraction will be Bullets’ star forward Gabadinho Mhango and Wanderers’ midfielder Joseph Kamwendo.
Mhango is yet to score against the Nomads and the latter have vowed to keep him at bay to maintain their clean sheet against him.
Despite shining in cup competitions—the Presidential and Standard Bank cups in which he won the golden boot awards— Mhango has struggled in league games as he has only managed five goals, seven short of joint leading scorers Vincent Chithenga of Bvumbwe Research and Sparrow Msowoya of Blantyre United.
The youngster may grab his chance and shine for once in the derby.
On the other hand, Kamwendo has thrilled in all the derbies he has played and is once again expected to turn on the magic for the Nomads.
The other potential match-makers are Chimango ‘Blackberry’ Kayira, Dalitso Sailesi, veteran winger Fischer Kondowe, Welani Nyirenda and Diverson Mlozi for Bullets and Gerald ‘Armando’ Chimbaka, Diverson Chilemba, Alfred Manyozo Jnr, Chavula, Bongani Kaipa, Mike Kaziputa and Nafe Msasa for Wanderers. The Nomads will however be without their match maker Gerald Phiri Jnr who has an injury.
When the two sides met in the first round, the Nomads came from behind to register a 2-1 victory.