Pride will be at stake this afternoon when Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers clash in the TNM Super League at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
While the People’s Team won the title last season, their third on the trot, the Central Bankers were the runners-up.
Last season, Silver won the first-round battle 1-0 at home while Bullets settled the scores in the reverse fixture by the same margin.
Bullets won the Airtel Top 8 while Silver took home the inaugural FDH Cup silverware.
That is not all. The two giants are the only teams in the domestic top-flight under the tutelage of foreign tacticians.
Bullets have Zimbabwean Kallisto Pasuwa whereas Zambian Dan Kabwe is in charge of Silver.
The champions sit pretty at the pinnacle of the 16-team league with29 points from 11 matches, having dropped four points.
They are one of the two teams yet to taste defeat, the other being second-placed Blue Eagles who trail them by two points.
On the other hand, Silver are fifth with 16 points from 10 matches, 13 points behind the People’s Team.
The Area 47-based side has struggled so far this season and last Sunday they had to come from two goals behind to force a two-all draw against table anchors Sable Farming.
Pasuwa was cautious in a pre-match interview and played down the home ground advantage.
He said: “We are playing at home yes, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. We need to put everything in place to get a positive result, as such, our training approach has been to prepare the boys mentally and physically for us to be ready for the game.”
Silver assistant coach Mcdonald Yobe admitted inconsistencies ahead of the big match.
He said: “It is not looking good on the table, but it’s something we are working on and we need to push the players to do more.
“Our preparations have been going on well and now it’s up to the players to apply what we have been doing. We need to win this game to put the title fight on track.”
Renowned football pundit Charles Nyirenda could not predict the outcome of the game, saying it can go either way.
He said: “The contest seems pretty even on paper although psychology may play a role in the match. For a start, the previous two or three seasons, both sides have been strong at home and poor away when they met Silver who,threatened to dominate the league proceedings this year during a pre-season bonanza have actually become inconsistent in the way they perform. It’s difficult to tell which team will turn up on a given day.
“In contrast, Bullets have been chalking up results even in matches where they haven’t played that well. Another crucial factor, as things stand, is that they are quite mean at the back and Silver ought to be wary of that.
“They hardly give away anything. As such, Silver will have to dig deep and be determined to create issues for them.”
Nyirenda said the aspect of the fixture that Silver may wish to exploit is that Bullets tend to slow down significantly in the second half after coming out strong in the first.
“Should Silver stand its ground earlier in the game, it could give Bullets headaches as the game progresses. This is a tight clash, I have to say,” he said.
Stein Davie, Chawanangwa Kaonga and Zebron Kalima have the potential to cause havoc in Bullets’ defence.
Bullets have a new attacking threat in wing attacker Patrick Mwaungulu who scored a brace last week against TN Stars. But the experienced Babatunde Adepoju, Hassan Kajoke, Lanjesi Nkhoma and Chimwemwe Idana have proved to be lethal since last season.
In another crucial match this afternoon, second-placed Eagles host Kamuzu Barracks (KB) at Nankhaka in Lilongwe.
The Area 30-based cops’ coach Elia Kananji said this will be a must-win fixture after failing to score in their last two games which ended goalless.
He said: “It will be a tough match, but if we are to realise our target of winning 10 games in the first round, then this should be one of them because we are now remaining with four matches,” he said.
His KB counterpart Charles Kamanga said they will be out to end Eagles’ unbeaten run.
Eagles trail Bullets by two points while KB are fifth with 18 points from 10 matches.