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Opponents watch: Bullets vs Silver

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets conclude the 2023 TNM Super League campaign with a home fixture as we host Silver Strikers at Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Eight months after the Central Bankers hosted The People’s Team in the opening match of the campaign in Lilongwe, we now welcome them at the soccer mecca in a title-deciding top-of-the-table clash.

From the 29 games played going into the final day of the campaign, Bullets lead the standings with 59 points while Silver are second with 56 points.

Bullets need just a point to win their 17th league title as Pieter De Jhong’s men, who have an inferior goal difference, will need to win the game with a 4-0 margin to stop the defending champions from grabbing a fifth consecutive championship under Kalisto Pasuwa.

Ahead of the showdown, we look at how our opponents have performed in their last 14 second-round league fixtures.

The Central Bankers started the final term of the campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Blue Eagles.

But for the next three weeks, they dropped eight points when they lost 1-0 away to Red Lions, 3-2 away to Bangwe All Stars and were held to a goalless draw by Extreme FC in their backyard.

These results saw them slowly losing ground in the title race, but they made amends when they thrashed Moyale Barracks 4-1 at Bingu National Stadium.

Their next assignment was another home game against Dedza Dynamos at Champions Stadium in Mponela where they lost 1-0.

As they were playing these games, Pasuwa’s men were on bay due to their CAF Champions League games. However, the Area 47 side failed to capitalize as they were not consistent with the results.

Silver bounced back from their last defeat as they overpowered Civil Service United in the Lilongwe derby, winning 1-0 away at Civo Stadium.

They maintained their fine form with yet another important 1-0 victory over Mighty Mukuru Wanderers who, at that time, were also title contenders.

De Jhong and his men travelled to Chitowe where they drew 0-0 with Mafco FC before proceeding to Blantyre where they defeated Mighty Tigers 2-0.

They were on the road again for two important fixtures in the North where they drew 0-0 with Karonga United and handed Chitipa United their first home defeat in the 2023 season with a 1-0 victory to return to Lilongwe with four out of the possible six points.

Next was a home match when they hammered Ekwendeni Hammers 3-1 to close the gap with Bullets, and before Sunday’s showdown, they recorded a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Kamuzu Barracks to move level on points with Bullets, who on the same afternoon lost 1-0 to Dedza Dynamos.

These two results meant Bullets had to beat Karonga United and The People’s Team delivered when it mattered most as they earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Karonga Stadium last Wednesday to open up a three-point lead before the final match of the campaign on Sunday.

Silver Strikers’ dangerous men

The Central Bankers are the second-highest-scoring team in the league this season with 40 goals, eight behind Bullets. They have three different players with the most number of goals this term.

Stain Davie and Patrick Macheso have scored nine goals each, while Chimwemwe Idana, who captained Bullets last season before leaving the defending champions, has seven goals, despite missing seven of the total second-round matches due to contractual issues with the Reserve Bank of Malawi-sponsored side.

Men to watch

Without any doubt, Idana will be the man to watch for the Area 47-based side. He is the reason why Silver Strikers are still in the title race despite played only 21 games.

The Bankers were on the verge of earning a draw against KB, but with a minute to go, he dribbled past three defenders before rounding off the shot-stopper to score the winning goal that kept De Jhong’s title hopes alive heading into the final day.

Big occasions call for big players, and the visitors will be delighted to have Idana against his former side. He is very aggressive, has pace, and he can score from any position once given space.

His partnership with Macheso is one of the deadliest on the domestic scene. The duo has more than 18 assists and has combined a combined 16 of Silver Strikers’ 40 goals.

They also have Davie. The forward is dangerous in the air and has scored in the last four games against Bullets. He has nine goals to his name, and he also has more than seven assists in the current campaign.

The Bankers will also rely on their versatile left-back, Tatenda M’balaka. The youngster is very flexible, has pace, and is a master of making dangerous moves into the opposition’s half.

He can switch the ball at his convenient time, can create spaces in between the opponents’ spaces and is quick with his left foot. He is one to watch if we are to have a smooth run on the afternoon where they need more than four goals to stage a memorable last-minute league triumph over Bullets.

Their style of play

Silver Strikers don’t sit back. They attack in numbers and move from the back into the attacking zones. They have Macheso, Idana and Chikondi Kamanga, who are very comfortable when in possession.

They play a very passing game, and they can unlock the opposition’s defence at will because of their fast-attacking football.

Their forward players are very quick and flexible with the ball, and if given spaces, they can shoot from any angle. They don’t rely on set pieces, but they create chances through Idana and Macheso, who can open up any defence to find the back of the net.

Their weaknesses 

Much as they have very flexible players, they are vulnerable in defence because, at times, they are always caught off-guard by pacey attacking opposition. The more they are pressed, the more they concede. Their left-back, M’balaka, is very good when attacking but struggles to recover when they are under attack.

Without Nickson Mwase, who is suspended, De Jhong is likely to use Emmanuel Kaunga and Paipi in the central defence and with a very aggressive forward, Bullets can keep the two defenders busy to restrict them from adding numbers in attack and in the process fleeing our wingers to operate from the wings and cause havoc in the penalty box.

Their goalkeeping is also not good when it comes to dealing with set pieces and long-range shots. The more we shoot, the more we increase our goal-scoring chances.

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