A thrilling TNM Super League encounter awaits this afternoon as the 2022 runners-up Blue Eagles welcome defending champions and league leaders FCB Nyasa Big Bullets at Nankhaka Stadium.
Both teams are currently struggling for results, with Bullets registering their second 1-1 draw in succession on Wednesday whilst Eagles were beaten 2-1 by Kamuzu Barracks at home last Sunday.
Victory for Kalisto Pasuwa’s men will see them edging closer to their fifth league title in a row with a game in hand over the second-placed Mighty Mukuru Wanderers.
On the other hand, a win for the Area 30-based cops will take them further up the table as the top eight and survival battles intensify as the 2023 season is slowly coming to an end.
Two back-to-back 1-1 draws at home to Wanderers and away to Red Lions means Pasuwa’s charges have dropped four important points that would have seen them officially put the title race to an end had they collected maximum points.
If The People’s Team had won the previous two games, a point on Sunday would have officially sealed the title for the Malawi champions, who are chasing a 16th league title.
But the draws mean Bullets have to beat Eagles at all costs to fend off pressure from rivals Wanderers, who are not giving up on the race and then beat Dedza Dynamos to retain the title, Pasuwa’s fifth successive championship in Malawi since his arrival in Blantyre in 2018.
Scoring 47 goals means they are very offensive, but conceding 17 goals is a clear indication of how difficult it has been for Maule’s defence this season.
The defending champions are one of the five teams to have had more draws (10) just behind Civil Service United (12) and Dedza Dynamos (11).
Positively, Pasuwa’s men are the only team with just a single defeat in 26 matches in the domestic league.
Sunday’s opponents are also one of the teams not safe from relegation. With 34 points from the 28 games played, any mistake in their last games will see them fighting relegation against Mafco FC, Moyale Barracks, Civil Service United, Ekwendeni Hammers and Mighty Tigers.
Only one of these teams will join Extreme FC and Red Lions, who are still hoping for the best, but then their survival chances are no longer in their hands following last Wednesday’s draw against Bullets.
Eliah Kananji’s side will also push for a Top Eight finish, a situation that makes Sunday’s showdown a very tricky fixture for both coaches.
The previous meetings between the two teams saw The People’s Team recording more wins than their opponents.
Bullets have had 10 wins from which they have scored 21 goals in 19 meetings since the 2013 season whilst the Eagles from Area 30 have three wins over their visitors, with six matches ending in draws.
In 2013, Bullets registered a double over the police side, beating them 2-0 in the first round in Lilongwe before completing a 3-2 win in the reverse fixture at Kamuzu Stadium.
In the following season, Pasuwa’s charges won 1-0 in Lilongwe before playing out to a 1-all draw in the second round in Blantyre.
Eagles’ biggest win over Bullets came in the 2015 season when we suffered a 3-0 defeat at Nankhaka Stadium, in a match played after Bullets had already won the championship. The first-round match at Kamuzu Stadium ended 1-1.
In the 2016 season, Bullets collected four out of the possible six points over the Area 30-based side, beating them 1-0 in Blantyre before a 1-1 draw in Lilongwe in the reverse fixture
2017 saw the two teams sharing three points each as Bullets won in their first meeting with a comfortable 3-0 margin before losing 2-1 to the Cops in the return match in Lilongwe.
The defending champions did a double over the Eagles in 2018, registering 1-0 victories in the two matches.
In the 2019 campaign, Eagles won the first-round match 2-1 in Lilongwe before they got hammered 4-0 by Bullets in the final fixture played at Kamuzu Stadium in a season that Pasuwa went on to pip rivals Wanderers to the league title with less than five games left to play. The Nomads had an 11-point lead cut by The People’s Team.
In the 2020/21 season, the two teams shared one point each as they played out to a goalless draw at Kamuzu Stadium in the opening match of that Covid-19 stricken spell before Precious Sambani struck at Nankhaka Stadium to give us a 1-0 victory and collect four out of the possible six points.
Last season, the two teams played to 1-all draws in the two rounds.
In the first round of this campaign, Bullets hammered Blue Eagles 3-0 courtesy of a strike each from Yamikani Fodya, Anthony Mfune and Ephraim Kondowe at Kamuzu Stadium.
Rabson Chiyenda is still recovering from the injury he sustained during the Blantyre derby, but Ephraim Kondowe, Alick Lungu and Gomezgani Chirwa have all recovered and are available for selection on Sunday afternoon.
Pasuwa will however be without centre-half Clyde Senaji and forward Anthony Mfune as they did not travel with the rest of the squad to the capital for Sunday’s fixture.
What Pasuwa said ahead of the match
“Every game that we are playing now will be very difficult for us. Every team is preparing very well for us, and we have to raise our gear in terms of how we do our things. We are going to the end of the season and my main worry has been where we need to push, we are failing to push up because of the tiredness.
But again, when we are planning, we plan throughout the calendar of the whole season but unfortunately, some of the games that came in between forced us to play games [when we were supposed to be recovering] and also the number of injuries [we are registering] has affected us. But [that said] we need to be positive in whatever we do and try to get a result [against Blue Eagles].
Each game has been and will always be tough for us. Besides them looking for a Top Eight finish or surviving relegation they [will] give it all. We played [the non-league] Lipulumundu Stars, who gave us a torrid time in every department. So, I am saying, as Bullets, we are the defending champions and everyone will try as much as he can to put up a very good performance when facing us.”
Kick-off time and how to follow the game
Our encounter against Blue Eagles at Nankhaka Stadium will kick off at 15h00 and will be live on Mpira TV and streamed on FIFA+. You can also catch all the match updates on our Facebook and Twitter channels.
Charles Chimimba will be in charge of officiating for our TNM Super League fixture at Nankhaka on Sunday afternoon.
Referee: Charles Chimimba
Assistant Referee 1: Edward Kambatuwa
Assistant Referee 2: Charles Lulaka
Fourth Official: Pilate Chibengeri
Match Assessor: Martha Nyekanyeka