Preview: Wanderers vs Bullets

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Kamuzu Stadium will once again command the attention of the nation, as it plays host to another edition of Malawi’s biggest football rivalries, the Blantyre derby between Mighty Mukuru Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets on Sunday.

When the two teams meet, the nation will be locked on a historical rivalry that has seen Bullets dominate down the years.

In the past decade, Wanderers only win over Bullets came in September 2021 when Vincent Nyangulu scored the only goal to end The People’s Team’s nine-year dominance over their cross-town rivals.

But the red side of town recovered and avenged in brilliant fashion when they hammered the Lali Lubani side 4-1 in the semifinals of the Airtel Top 8 Cup in December, before they hunted Wanderers again on the opening day of the current season with a 2-1 victory in the TNM Super League.

Form Guide

Coming into this particular fixture amid good run of form, Kalisto Pasuwa’s men are comfortably top of the summit with 48 points from 18 games, 16 points above their rivals.

Across competitions, Bullets have gone 20 games unbeaten, registering 15 Super League wins, two FDH Bank Cup victories and three Super League draws.

The visitors, on the other hand, have struggled to win at Kamuzu Stadium in an open play for two consecutive games, having played out to a 1-1 draw with Kamuzu Barracks in the league before beating Moyale Barracks 4-2 on penalties following a 4-4 result in the regulation time in the round-of-16 of the FDH Bank Cup.

Previous Meetings 

The occasion presents the visitors an opportunity to clinch a third successive win over the home side.

The rivalry resumed earlier in the current season with an opening league fixture where Bullets won 2-1, courtesy of a strike each from Chimwemwe Idana and Anthony Mfune.

But before this, Bullets had hammered Wanderers 4-1 in the Airtel Top 8 Cup semis, with Babatunde scoring all the four goals to hunt his former club.

Bullets go into this fixture as clear favourites and they will fancy their chances of getting a positive outcome, having dominated the Super League Blantyre derbies in recent years.

Since 2015, Bullets have registered five league wins over their rivals, who only registered a win last season.

Team News

Pasuwa is set to welcome back defender Kesten Simbi, who missed Bullets’ cup game victory over Moyale Barracks last Sunday due to an injury he sustained in a league encounter against Ekwendeni Hammers in Mzuzu.

The People’s Team will also have Clever Mkungula ready for selection after missing out of last match due to family issues, whilst Nickson Nyasulu is back in contention after serving a red card he picked against Sable Farming last month, which saw him missing the Moyale game.

The log leaders have no injury concerns heading into this match.

Key Players

Babatunde Adepoju (Bullets): The Nigerian loves big occasions and there is no bigger occasion than the Blantyre derby. The forward is a player who uses strength to torment his opponents and is also good in the air, having scored three of the four goals against Wanderers using his head. The 26-year-old is very clever at exploiting gaps and spaces. He is also a player that is key in the way Bullets play their quick transition. He has the pace and if left unattended, he can cause collateral damage.

Chimwemwe Idana (Bullets): The central midfielder has been very influential for The People’s Team in two consecutive seasons.

In the 2020/21 season, Idana inspired Bullets to their 15th league title and was also named Player of the Season.

His ability to create spaces and unlock opponents’ defence is what would make every team not to cope with his intelligence whenever he is in possession of the ball. He will likely be very instrumental for Pasuwa’s side.

Vincent Nyangulu (Wanderers): The striker has had a good run over The People’s Team in recent matches. He was on the scoresheet when Wanderers ended Bullets’ eight-year unbeaten home run in the league last season. He scored past Bullets in the Airtel Top 8 semi-final despite his side losing 4-1, before he also netted the only goal for the Nomads in their 2-1 defeat in the opening round.

The Nomads number 9 is one of the most dangerous strikers in the domestic league and once left unmarked the end result is fatal to the opposite side. Once again, he will be the key man for Alex Ngwira’s team on Sunday.

Felix Zulu (Wanderers): He is a workaholic with his speed and ability to cover a wide area in the field of play.  During the 1-0 victory over Bullets, he outsmarted the Idana-led midfield and he closed down all attacking spaces for Bullets in the entire 90 minutes. Very quick on the ball, an eye for crucial passes and the ability to move forward with the ball on his feet makes him one of the best midfielders in the league.

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