Defending champions FCB Nyasa Big Bullets are in the Northern Region for two important fixtures at Rumphi Stadium against Ekwendeni Hammers and Moyale Barracks.
The first match will be on Saturday against Hammers, marking a return to TNM Super League action for Kalisto Pasuwa’s men, who had two cup games within four days in Lilongwe before travelling up North.
With the TNM Super League title race reaching its boiling point between the title contenders, positive outcomes in these two games will surely give Bullets a massive advantage in the chase for a fifth championship in a roll.
But on Saturday, the defending champions have to overcome a side desperate for results as they fight for their survival in the top-flight league.
The fixture takes place 72 hours after Bullets’ recent victory in the Airtel Top 8 Cup, comfortably beating Civil Service United 2-0 at Civo Stadium on Wednesday.
Before the victory over Civil, The People’s Team successfully defended the FDH Bank Cup with another convincing 3-0 win over Mafco FC at Bingu National Stadium last Sunday.
Prior to the Lilongwe trip, Bullets were 1-0 winners over Bangwe All Stars in the league, a result that moved them closer to the current log leaders, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, who have played four games more than us.
The last three wins mean Kalisto Pasuwa’s charges have made amends with their 4-0 humiliation at the hands of TP Mazembe in the CAF Champions League second preliminary round qualifiers a fortnight ago.
As for the hosts, they are passing through a difficult spell in which results are not coming for them.
Ekwendeni started the campaign on a high note and saw themselves climbing up to fifth in the standings, but they found the going very tough in the second round as they are now five points from the bottom three following back-to-back defeats.
In their last seven games, Hammers have only managed to collect four points from the possible 21 after they drew 1-1 with Mighty Tigers before beating Extreme FC 1-0.
They lost 2-0 away to Mafco FC and recorded three straight 1-0 losses to Kamuzu Barracks, Bangwe All Stars and Chitipa United.
Their heaviest defeat was registered at Karonga Stadium when they got hammered 4-1 by Karonga United before a 2-1 home loss to Wanderers.
Their recent loss came at the hands of Mafco FC at Chitowe Stadium last week.
Ekwndeni are currently sitting in 13th position with 29 points from 25 games, and with five games remaining, they will definitely up their game against the defending champions to keep their survival hopes alive.
Ever since they earned promotion to the Super League, we have played them five times, winning all the games.
The last victory over the Mzuzu-based side was in June at Kamuzu Stadium, in which we hammered them 4-1 courtesy of a strike each from Hassan Kajoke, Lanjesi Nkhoma, Anthony Mfune and Patrick Mwaungulu, with Gomezgani Chirwa scoring their consolation goal with an Own Goal.
Our last away victories over them came at Mzuzu Stadium, which is currently under rehabilitation. This makes our first-ever game to face them at Rumphi Stadium.
This will also be our third time playing at Saturday’s venue as we played Rumphi United and Chitipa United in the TNM Super League and FDH Bank Cup, respectively, last season.
Pasuwa will have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the match as all the players who travelled to Lilongwe en route to Mzuzu are fit apart from Thomson Magombo, who suffered a knock in training and will be assessed once the team returns to Blantyre.
Goalkeeper Richard Chimbamba is also fit after missing out on Civil’s game due to a minor injury suffered in training.
Ernest Petro and Kesten Simbi returned to Blantyre on Wednesday to start their recoveries after picking up injuries during our game against Bangwe and training, respectively.
What Pasuwa said ahead of the match
“It’s very tricky facing a side which is fighting to survive from the chop. It is a side that gave us a torrid time when we played them at their base. Those kinds of players, when playing on these types of grounds, put up a gallant fight to collect points and demonstrate to their opposition that they are also fit to play for Bullets. So, we need to be very positive in whatever we do to collect maximum points.
“We need a different approach because of the playing surface, but playing on a bumpy and hard surface will not be an excuse because these are the facilities that we have in Malawi. We have been reminding the boys that these are the grounds we have here. We have few good surfaces, but the majority are like this, hence the need for them to master. [During training on Friday] the wind was also hitting hard and I hope the players will adjust so that by the end of the match we pick all the points.
How to follow the game
Rose Zimba will be in charge of the officiating team for our away fixture against Ekwendeni Hammers in the TNM Super League this Saturday afternoon.
Referee: Rose Zimba
Assistant Referee 1: Samuel Fudzulani
Assistant Referee 2: Elias Chikoleka
Fourth Official: Misheck Juba
Match Assessor: Kaliyoto Ngosi