With the TNM Super League second round starting today (Sunday), reigning champions and current leaders Silver Strikers assistant coach Hellings Mwakasungula believes they can defend the title .
Silver finished the first round at the top with 31 points, three above Red Lions with 10 wins, one draw and three losses. They are on bye as the second round rolls into life this afternoon.
â€œIt is a sign that we are destined for good things. We have done quite well in the first round and we will just have to take it from there and continue performing well in the second round,â€ said Mwakasungula.
Since 2006, all the first-round winners in the league have only finished second or below at the end of the season save for Silver in 2009.
â€œIt is amazing how sometimes statistics look, but we are motivated to defend the title having missed out on two major tournaments alreadyâ€”the Presidential Cup and the Standard Bank Knockout Trophy and we are counting on the league,â€ Mwakasungula said.
They have not reinforced their squad though they now have a new coach Franco Ndawa who joined them during the first-round break.
â€œI only took charge of the Standard Bank Cup games and we lost in the finals to Wanderers. The players are responding well to the changes with my coming and we are in good shape to continue from where they stopped,â€ said Ndawa whose team is no bye this weekend.
Lions, on the other hand, nearly set an own record of finishing the first round without a loss. Having gone 12 games unbeaten, the soldiers lost their last two games to Blue Eagles and Moyale.
They have been the busiest team during the three-week transfer market. They off-loaded nine players and recruited nine, including Dave Banda who rejoined the team following the termination of his contract at Black Leopards in South Africa. The others are their former players, who were in military training.
Lions, who lost the least number of games in the first-round, two, open their second-round account with a tough fixture against Escom United this afternoon at Zomba Community Centre ground.
For Escom, the just-ended first round can be described as their worst show of all time.
They managed only two wins in 14 games and are stuck in the relegation zone.
But the return of Chiukepo Msowoya, Victor Nyirenda and Jacob Ngwira from foreign clubs, may prove to be the turning point.
â€œThe three-week break we had has helped us to reflect on the poor performance of the team and we have looked at the problems and we are ready to bounce back,â€ said Ngwira, who is one of the caretaker coaches.
Wanderers and Bullets are other teams that are also in serious contention for the title.
The two teams are on a temporary one-year sponsorship deal with one sponsor Carlsberg Malawi, who have put conditions that the team that stands out in terms of performance, discipline and fair play will win the ultimate sponsorship.
They have already won a cup each. Bullets clinched the Presidential Cup while the Nomads won the Standard Bank Knockout Trophy.
Lying third and fourth respectively on the log table, Wanderers and Bullets know that the league success may have a huge influence on who gets the Carlsberg sponsorship deal.
Return to the capital
The Nomads return to the capital city, the scene of their historic Standard Bank finals triumph over Silver last week, for two crucial games. They face Epac today and Blue Eagles on Monday.
â€œIt is a really a tough weekend for us. We were going back to Lilongwe after a hectic three-week period of Standard Bank Knockout Trophy tough matches against Escom, Bullets and Silver. But we are prepared .
â€œWe have put behind our cup success and it is time to focus on new challenges,â€ said captain Foster Namwela.
Bullets start the second round with a tricky fixture against Tigers Monday afternoon.
In other games slated for today, Kabwafu host Bvumbwe Research in Mzuzu with the hope of moving out of the drop zone while Mafco host Kamuzu Barracks.
On Monday, Moyale play Bvumbwe at Chitowe while Blantyre United take on Civo United in Balaka.