Airtel Top 8 Match Preview: Bullets vs MAFCO

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After successfully defending the TNM Super League title, Nyasa Big Bullets now turn their attention to the 2021 Airtel Top 8.

Kalisto Pasuwa’s men face MAFCO FC in the first leg of the opening quarter-final at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday afternoon before traveling to Dwangwa for the return leg in a fortnight.

Bullets will be eyeing another silverware after missing out on the FDH Bank Cup which they lost in the quarter-final at the hands of winners Silver Strikers in August.

Head coach Kalisto Pasuwa spoke on how his charges have been preparing for the encounter while emphasizing how important it is for The People’s Team to convincingly win the first leg at home before the away fixture at Chitowe.

“We have to be prepared for MAFCO. The players have been training to do good this time around in terms of cup games. We have been lagging behind in most areas when we are playing cup games and you know the approach is different from league matches where you might need a point but in cup games, when you are beaten you are out, so we need to be very offensive in order for us to go through to the next round,” he told club media on Thursday.

Pasuwa has since cautioned his players to learn from past mistakes, saying Bullets train to win and not to lose games.

“Our approach is the same. We plan to win, unfortunately sometimes results don’t go our way, but I think we have gone over it by assessing ourselves to make sure we are okay in all areas that we have been making mistakes.”

Facing a very physical side that Bullets failed to beat away and at home in the 2020/21 TNM Super League season, drawing in both matches, the tactician expects a very tough encounter.

“It’s not easy to prepare against such team. They have had a very distinctive way of playing. They play with a little bit of exuberance and play a little bit off the cuff. The only difference between those two league matches and this one is that it’s a cup game with a different approach.

“They are a physical team and also very good in setpieces and very good in the air, but we have been training on that by closing spaces and improving our transition in all the phases,” explained Pasuwa.

The Bullets head coach also briefly gave an update on injuries ahead of the encounter.

“We have been training the whole week and the players who needed medical attention are still receiving it. We have plenty of injuries and some players are definitely out of this competition, but like I said before, we need to fulfill this fixture and we need results at all cost regardless of who is donning the Bullets jersey.”

The People’s Team will be without Chimango Kayira, who is nursing an injury he sustained during the Super League encounter against Kamuzu Barracks, as well as Ben Manyozo, who underwent an eye surgery last week.

Chiukepo Msowoya is also out after picking a knock during training within the week, while Pilirani Zonda is still not yet fit to be considered for selection following his return from an injury a week ago.

Meshack Seleman will have to undergo a late fitness test as he has been nursing an injury during Bullets’ final league match against Karonga United last month.

Saturday’s match will be the first meeting in five years between the two teams in a cup competition.

The last cup meeting between Bullets and MAFCO was in 2016 in the quarter-finals of the Carlsberg Cup at Civo Stadium, which the Salima based Soldiers won 1-0.

Bullets reached the final of the Airtel Top 8 in 2018, but failed to win the cup after going down 1-0 to Blue Eagles.