Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers this afternoon roll out their fourth Fisd Challenge Cup campaigns when they host Karonga United and Mlatho Mponela, respectively.
The two sides, who will start their round of 16 encounters at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre and Silver Stadium in Lilongwe in that order, have never won the tournament since its inception in 2016 and are hoping to win it this time around.
Be Forward Wanderers, who are the current holders, have won it twice, including the inaugural tournament in 2016 while Kamuzu Barracks won the 2017 edition.
However, Bullets assistant coach Peter Mponda and his Silver counterpart Abbas Makawa yesterday said although statistics weigh in their favour this afternoon, it would be suicidal to underrate their respective opponents.
Bullets have beaten Karonga six times in their last eight TNM Super League games with the latter having a single victory and the other ending in a draw. Bullets had a narrow 1-0 win in their last meeting a few weeks ago.
Mponda said: “It is very important that we beat Karonga and keep alive our hopes of winning this cup for the first time.
“However, we know it will not be an easy game. We have played them twice this season and they proved to be a tough side. If we relax one minute and underrate them, they can punish us. We will be on our toes the entire 90 minutes.”
The injury plagued Peoples Team could welcome back midfielder Mike Nkwate from injury while Precious Sambani is expected to undergo a late fitness test this morning.
Nevertheless, in Peter Banda, Patrick Phiri, Hassan Kajoke and Chimwemwe Idana, Bullets have enough arsenal to see off the visitors who will bank their hopes in Peter Mselema, Clement Nyondo and Gule Mwaluswa.
Ingwina ya Karonga’s coach Dan Dzinkambani, whose side beat Ekwendeni Hammers 2-1 in the preliminary round, said they know they are facing the TNM Super League champions and they will do their best to pluck a win.
“Bullets are the favourites, but we are not travelling to Blantyre just to fulfil the fixture,” he said.
As for Silver, they beat Mponela 2-1 in the Super League in August and have home ground advantage, but Makawa said Mponela are still tough customers.
“In cup games, it is risky to bank on statistics. We are aware that they will be out to embarrass us, but we are on it,” he said.
Mlatho team manager Blessings Makanjira, whose side dismissed Silver Reserves with a 1-0 beating in the preliminary stage, said they are ready to face the Central Bankers and they will do their best to emerge victorious.
Bullets and Silver are in the round of 16 by virtue of being among the top-eight teams in the first round of the 16-team Super League.
Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (Fisd) recently reaffirmed the cup sponsorship and increased the winners’ prize from K16 million to K20 million the highest in the land at the moment.. Runners-up prize has also been hiked to K7 million from K6 million. n