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Opponents Watch: Civil vs Bullets

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TNM Super League defending champions FCB Nyasa Big Bullets will be on the road for the fourth time this season as they travel to Lilongwe to face Civil Service United at Civo Stadium on Sunday.

It will be Bullets’ third trip to the Capital this season, having already travelled up central twice for away fixtures against Silver Strikers and Extreme FC.

The weekend clash promises to be exciting looking at how the two teams have started this campaign, with the hosts looking for their second win and the visitors looking to maintain their lead at the summit of the table.

As we count down to Sunday, here is what you need to know about Oscar Kaunda’s side.

The Civil Servants dropped to 12th position last weekend when they lost 1-0 away to Karonga United, their second defeat of the season, having lost 2-0 to Mighty Mukuru Wanderers in their opening match of the campaign.

Kaunda’s charges then gave away a first-half lead to draw 1-1 against Extreme at home to earn their first point in the new season through Binwell Katinji’s goal.

They had an away assignment to Mighty Tigers at Mpira Stadium on April 30, a must-win game for the Servants who were still searching for their first win and they got it right when Muhammad Biason scored the only goal of the match to inspire them to a hard-fought win away from home.

Many thought that was the beginning of their campaign, but they dropped another two crucial points at home when Paul Ndhlovu cancelled out Patrick Phiri’s first-half strike to draw 1-1 against Mafco FC at Civo Stadium the following weekend.

This was followed by their recent 1-0 defeat away to Karonga United last week, a result that saw them dropping into 12th position with five points from five games, scoring only three goals and conceding five.

Civil’s form at home this season

Kaunda’s charges have played two games at Civo Stadium and have collected only two points out of the possible six, scoring two goals and conceding two.

Their coach

Following the resignation of Franco Ndawa, his assistant Kaunda took over as the Civil Service United head coach.

Kaunda is the only coach who brought silverware to the team after defeating Wanderers 1-0 in the Standard Bank Cup final in 2015.

He is also the only coach to have defeated Bullets in a competitive match, coming from behind to win 2-1 at Kamuzu Stadium in the semis of the same competition. But since then, the Servants have not won any trophy and have struggled for a place in the top eight.

Civil’s home runs against Bullets

The Lilongwe-based side hasn’t beaten Bullets at home for the past decade.

In the last eight meetings between the two teams at Civo Stadium, Bullets won all, the last being the 0-1 win in the 2022 season through a second-half strike from Babatunde Adepoju. In that match, Kalisto Pasuwa’s charges finished with ten men following a second yellow card to goalkeeper Rabson Chiyenda.

The People’s Team has scored 14 goals at Civo and conceded only four. The highest-scoring matches between the two teams at Sunday’s venue were recorded in the 2014 and 2015 seasons when the defending champions recorded back-to-back 3-1 wins over the government-sponsored side.

Civil’s attacking threat

When at home and against Bullets, they play with confidence, building from the back and going into transitions behind spaces.

Despite playing on a hard surface, they mastered the art of playing at their venue and they have got Damiano Kunje and Patrick Phiri as their two dangerous men on the field as they spearhead a high-pressing game alongside midfielder Moses Banda.

Sunday’s opponents also have Biason, who is very quick and aggressive when attacking. He is someone who, when left unattended, can cause havoc. The last time we played them, he tormented our defence and was just unfortunate not to find the back of the net as he had chances to bury us, especially in the first half where we couldn’t cope with the dryness of the pitch.

Initially, Civil was a team that relied heavily on secondary balls but the departure of a striking duo of Muhammad Sulumba and Christopher Kumwembe meant they were restricted from playing long balls into the box, hence now using quick wingers in Phiri and Kunje.

What to expect from them

Every game against The People’s Team is like a cup final and Pasuwa has unceasingly warned his charges to always prepare for massive battles regardless of the opposition, reiterating, “even a social team can make us run for our money because they want to play for Bullets”.

On Sunday the Servants will up their game in search of their first win at home. Knowing how dry their pitch is, Kaunda’s charges will do whatever it takes to frustrate the current log leaders, who haven’t lost any game this season.

However, Bullets are the masters of big matches, especially in the first round, where they normally put the title to bed with victories regardless of where they are playing.

On Sunday, at the same venue, they defeated Silver 1-0 to win the Kamuzu Cup, and surely, they know the state in which the pitch is at the moment.

They have never lost to Civil for years, and on Sunday Maule will go for the kill to keep their season going as they hunt for a fifth TNM Super League title in a row.

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