Azam Tigers, Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers have a chance to dislodge pacesetters Red Lions from the summit of the TNM Super League table this afternoon.
The three teams are tied on seven points from three games each and trail the Malawi Defence Force (MDF)-sponsored outfit by a point. They are also unbeaten so far, having won twice and drawn once.
Tigers, who are second courtesy of their better goal difference, host fifth-placed Nomads at Mulanje Park while the People’s Team who are second, engage returnees Nchalo United at Kalulu Stadium in Chikwawa.
Kau-Kau Boys’ vocal technical director Robin Alufandika set the hype ahead of the match by declaring that the Nomads will not reach Mulanje Mountain’s Sapitwa Peak.
“They [Wanderers] are coming to our base in Mulanje. They will try to climb Mulanje Mountain but I doubt if they will reach Sapitwa,” he said.
Interestingly, Tigers have been dubbed as the Nomads’ nursery as most of their key players end up joining the Lali Lubani Road outfit.
At the start of the season, the champions roped in goalkeeper William Thole, defender Peter Cholopi and midfielder Dan Mhone while last season they signed midfielder Yamikani Chester from Tigers.
The Nomads also have defender Stanley Sanudi and wingers—Isaac ‘Tcheya’ Kaliati and Mike Kaziputa—who were all poached from Tigers.
But Alufandika claimed that it is that aspect which gives them an edge over the Nomads.
“The fact is that we know how most of their players play because we groomed them, but they hardly know us because we have a new and ambitious young squad,” he said.
The connection does not end there. Alufandika and his Tigers co-owner Sydney Chikoti, who is the club’s chairperson, previously served the Nomads as team manager and chairperson, respectively. Wanderers team manager Stevie Madeira also had a stint with Kau-Kau Boys as team manager.
The two teams also train at the same venue—Country Club Limbe.
Alufandika said their motivation is that they are yet to taste defeat and they are on a mission to turn Mulanje Park into their fortress.
On the other hand, Nomads coach Yasin ‘Tich’ Osman said: “Tigers have improved a lot this season and we have to give them the respect they deserve.
“Other than that, we are fresh from the Blantyre derby [against Bullets] which comes with a lot of tension, bragging rights and all that stuff. So, we now have to shift our focus to tomorrow [today’s] match.”
But while admitting that some of his players are Tigers products, Osman said that does not matter much, saying: “At the end of the day it is about one’s game plan, tactics and approach.”
Last season, the Nomads pipped Tigers 1-0 in the second round after playing out a goalless draw in the first round.
Meanwhile, Bullets team manager James Chilapondwa is optimistic they will collect three points against Nchalo.
“We want to immediately recover from Saturday’s minor setback and collect all the three points against Nchalo,” he said.
Nchalo, who are making a comeback in the Super League after almost a decade, are ninth with four points from four games.
During pre-season, Bullets came from behind to hold Nchalo 1-1 at the same venue.
Chilapondwa acknowledges that they will have to be at their best to overcome Nchalo because they have proven to be a strong side.
On his part, Nchalo coach Charles Manda said the game will be a yardstick for their strength.
“It’s a big game for us. Bullets is one of the best in the country. How we fare against them will give us a picture of how strong we are,” he said.