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Match preview: Bullets vs Civil | Airtel Top 8

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We switch our focus to the Airtel Top 8 when we welcome Civil Service United in the quarterfinal second leg at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Bullets, eyeing a third consecutive semifinal spot for a cup they surrendered to rivals Mighty Mukuru Wanderers last season after winning it for the first time in 2021, go into this encounter with a two-goal advantage over the visiting Servants following a 2-0 victory away in Lilongwe two weeks ago.

But despite this massive advantage, the tie is far from over and Kalisto Pasuwa’s men need to avoid complacency against a side that nearly ended our unbeaten TNM Super League run at home when they took a 2-0 lead before surrendering it in the second half to lose 3-2 in August.

Form Guide

The People’s Team has had seven wins in their last eight matches in all competitions this October.

Since their CAF Champions League defeat away to TP Mazembe at the start of this month, Bullets rejuvenated and went on to beat Bangwe All Stars, Moyale Barracks, Chitipa United and Kamuzu Barracks in the league.

Pasuwa’s men also retained the FDH Bank Cup after hammering Mafco FC, beating Saturday’s opposition in the Airtel Top 8 first leg and recording the only draw against Ekwendeni Hammers.

Collecting 13 points out of 15 saw the defending champions move to the top of the league standings by opening a three-point lead over the closest title contender, Mighty Mukuru Wanderers.

In those eight games, Bullets scored 15 goals and conceded five, while keeping four clean sheets.

This remarkable run means Maule have had 20 victories across all the domestic competitions since their only defeat of the season away to Chitipa United in June.

As for their opponents, they are having a very difficult season in the top-flight league as they are just two points above safety with four games left to play.

Civil go into the Airtel Top 8 return leg days after they played out to two back-to-back goalless draws against Red Lions and Chitipa United at home.

Their recent victory came in the Castel Challenge Cup in which they eliminated Mgwirizano FC 5-0 to proceed to round-of-32 of the competition.

Abbas Makawa’s side has two battles to face; staging a comeback against Bullets and progress to the Airtel Top 8 semis, and at the same time, focusing on the TNM Super League relegation battle to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2016 when they were relegated to the Premier Division and only returned to the top flight league after they bought the then Epac FC’s slot.

Head-to-Head

In the last decade, this will only be the third cup clash between these two sides.

They met in the then Standard Bank Cup semifinal showdown in Blantyre eight years ago and recently, the Airtel Top 8 first leg encounter at Civo Stadium on 11 October.

In the October 2015 clash, the Servants registered a memorable 2-1 win to boot Bullets out of the cup through a late second-half brace from Raphael Phiri, who cancelled out an early first-half strike from Chiukepo Msowoya.

In the last 16 Super League games, it’s only in the 2017, 2022 and 2023 seasons that Civil got three points over Bullets after sharing spoils in the first and second rounds of those matches.

The latest defeat for Civil was a 3-2 loss at the hands of Bullets in August in a match in which the Lilongwe-based government-sponsored side had a comfortable 2-1 first-half lead surrendered to The People’s Team who staged a spectacular second-half comeback in recent years.

Team News

Two fresh injuries to Ephraim Kondowe and Stanley Billiat have been added to the Bullets injury list, taking the total number of injured players to six.

Pasuwa missed the services of Patrick Mwaungulu and Clyde Senaji when we defeated Chitipa United and Kamuzu Barracks in our two recent league fixtures due to knocks.

Ernest Petro and Kesten Simbi are also out after joining Alick Lungu, who has now started his rehabilitation, and Mike Mkwate, who remains on the sidelines for the rest of the season, on the injury list.

What Pasuwa said ahead of the match

“Remember, we played 90 minutes [against Civil] in Lilongwe, and we are playing here again. It’s not to say the game is over. We played the first half, and now the second half awaits.

Civil is a good team that plays with structure and good intensity. We are not taking the game lightly, and we will try to do our best for us to come out with results.

But again, we have been talking about injuries in the squad. We need to manage the intensity for us to finish the match.

The boys are okay, but we have no space to rest. We play a game today, and then we do light training. In most cases, we are trying to make these guys recover because we cannot do anything [of high intensity].

Games are coming, and the worst part of it is losing players in each and every match we play, and this is affecting us a lot. If you look at our squad, we are having more players who are out. In the last match, we lost Stanley Billiat and Ephraim Kondowe.

I will have to be crying every day just because of the way we are playing games, I don’t see ourselves lasting a mile and if anyone can see how these fixtures are coming, it’s too much on us, but it is what it is.”

How to follow the game

The match, which kicks off at 14h30 will be beamed live on Mpira TV and streamed online on FIFA+. You can also catch all the match updates on our Facebook and Twitter channels.

Match officials

David Chinoko will be in charge of our Airtel Top 8 second-leg tie against Civil Service United at Kamuzu Stadium.

Referee: David Chinoko

Assistant Referee 1: Samuel Fudzulani

Assistant Referee 2: Maureen Dzinkambani

Fourth Official: Shaibu Cassim

Match Assessor: Bester Kalombo

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