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Match preview: Bullets vs Wanderers | Castel Challenge Cup

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Blantyre is in for a treat this Sunday when perennial rivals FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers clash in the highly anticipated Castel Challenge Cup semifinal tie at Kamuzu Stadium.

This fixture is the fourth Blantyre Derby in 2023, having faced each other in the NBS Bank Charity Shield as well as the opening and final rounds of the TNM Super League campaign.

The immediate focus for Kalisto Pasuwa’s men will be to advance to another cup final in their hunt for a quadruple, having also reached the Airtel Top 8 final in a season Bullets have also defended the FDH Bank Cup and the TNM Super League.

In 2023, Bullets have again dominated Malawian football, but the match on Sunday is different altogether.

Pasuwa’s charges need to step up to get a win over their rivals, whose hopes for a piece of silverware this year are on the Castel Challenge Cup after missing out on the other three national competitions.

Form Guide

The two teams have had one week of rest. They both played their quarterfinal matches a week ago, making Sunday’s match an epic on its own as the two opponents will bring fresh legs into this showdown.

Bullets, the home side at a facility the two rivals share for their home matches, go into this tie from a convincing 4-0 win over Ekwendeni Hammers in the quarter-finals after they also hammered Civil Service United 3-0 in the round of 16.

As Pasuwa’s charges were yet to play in the last eight, Wanderers had already defeated Moyale Barracks 3-0 at the same venue to advance to the semis.

In the last two games, Bullets scored six goals, whereas the Nomads scored four to reach the semi-final stage, having recorded a hard-earned 1-0 victory over FOMO FC in the round of 16.

Head-to-Head 

The Malawi adversaries have met several times in both the league and cup competitions since the beginning of their rivalry decades ago. But in the last decade, Bullets have had more knockout wins over their rivals.

Bullets remain unbeaten against the Nomads in the last four semifinal meetings in different competitions.

Pasuwa’s men, however, lost to Wanderers 5-4 on penalties in the Airtel Top 8 final at Bingu National Stadium last December to miss out on the opportunity to win a treble in the previous season.

Overall, in the last seven cup meetings between the two teams, Bullets have five wins against Wanderers’ two, with four of them registered in the semis and one a final.

Wanderers’ other three cup victories over Bullets were in the 2012 season when they knocked us out of Standard Bank Cup in the semis on penalties following a 1-1 tie in regulation time and the Nomads went on to win 4-3 in shootouts.

In 2015, we met again in the Carlsberg Cup final at Civo Stadium and the blue side won 2-1.

In other semifinal matches, Bullets were 1-0 winners over Wanderers in the 2014 Carlsberg Cup match played at Civo Stadium. Jimmy Zakazaka scored early to condemn our rivals to another painful derby loss.

In 2018, we met again in the Airtel Top 8 match at BNS. Two early second-half goals from Bright Munthali and Chiukepo Msowoya inspired Bullets to a 2-1 victory, with Wanderers’s only goal of the match coming from Zicco Mkanda, who later went on to play for The People’s Team.

In 2021, Bullets hammered their rivals 4-1 in the semis of the Airtel Top 8. Babatunde Adepoju punished his former side as he scored all four goals on that day. Vincent Nyangulu scored Wanderers’ consolation goal.

Last season, another semifinal showdown in the FDH Bank Cup went to Bullets who humiliated their opponents 4-0. A brace from Hassan Kajoke and lone strikes from Gomezgani Chirwa and Adepoju sealed the victory for Pasuwa’s charges.

In the last four semifinal matches, Wanderers have conceded ten goals against their rivals who only let in two goals.

In 2017, Bullets overpowered them again with a 5-4 shootout win in the Carlsberg Cup final following a 2-2 draw in normal time.

In the just-ended TNM Super League campaign, the first round ended 0-0 before we played out to a 1-1 stalemate in the second round. Stanley Sanudi gave the visitors a first-half lead before Maxwell Phodo equalized in the second half.

Team News

Ephraim Kondowe and Precious Phiri will undergo a late fitness test after the duo resumed full training on Wednesday.

It is however confirmed that Pasuwa will be without captain Precious Sambani after the left-back picked up an injury during Bullets’ final preparations for the derby.

Kesten Simbi, Frank Willard and Alick Lungu are also not available as they continue recovering from injuries that have kept the trio on the sidelines for weeks.

What Pasuwa said ahead of the match

“I think we have had enough rest. We had some injuries, but the majority of the players are back and are in contention for a place in the final team on Sunday. It’s a derby that is coming up, and you don’t need to be told. That’s one area where we, as coaches, will give it to the players because they know what it means to wear a badge of Bullets and what a derby means to them.

I think we have the legends who are still in the team like Fischer [Kondowe], James [Chilapondwa], Heston [Munthali] and many others. They played [in the derby] before [becoming technical members] and they have been telling [the boys] how a player is highly rated whenever he plays well in a derby.

We have been training since Monday and I think the players have been responding well and we hope on the day of the game, they will give us the result. [Of course] it is a very difficult period to face Wanderers because we are facing a team that is fighting for their last opportunity for silverware. Remember our last cup meeting in Lilongwe last year? It was decided on penalties, and we ended up losing.

Wanderers are hungry for anything left in the country, so we expect anything from them. If you can look at games that we have played against them, they play very well and it’s just very unfortunate that they don’t get the results, but you can see the zeal to get something. It’s a derby, and our boys also need it to finish the year on a very high note.”

How to follow the game

Sunday’s Blantyre derby at Kamuzu Stadium will kick off at 14h30 and action will be live on Mpira TV. Alternatively, you can catch all the match updates on our Facebook and Twitter channels.

Match officials

Referee: Easter Zimba

Assistant Referee 1: Clemence Kanduku

Assistant Referee 2: Lameck Phiri

Fourth Official: David Chinoko

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