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Opponents watch: Bullets vs Civil | Castel Challenge Cup R16

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FCB Nyasa Big Bullets continue the quest for another silverware in the 2023 season as we host Civil Service United in the Castel Challenge Cup round of 16 at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Our showdown against the Servants takes place after we lost to them in the return leg of the Airtel Top 8 at home on 28 October. Despite the loss, Bullets proceeded to the next stage with a 3-2 aggregate win from the two-legged affair after we won the first leg 2-0 at Civo Stadium.

But the defeat meant Civil are unbeaten against Bullets in cup games at Kamuzu Stadium, having knocked us out of the then Standard Bank Cup in 2015 after they came from behind to win 2-1 courtesy of a brace from Raphael Phiri, who is now playing for Moyale Barracks. James Chilapondwa, the current Team Manager for The People’s Team, was the scorer of our goal.

Ahead of Saturday’s clash, let’s take a look at how our opponents have performed on their journey to this phase of the Castel Challenge Cup.

Abbas Makawa’s men started their campaign with a comfortable 5-0 victory over Mgwirizano FC in the round of 64. This massive result came at a time when Civil were struggling for results in the just concluded TNM Super League season, won by Kalisto Pasuwa’s side.

Their second assignment was against Ergo FC from Kasungu in the round of 32. The Servants showed the district league side no mercy with a 9-1 hammering to advance to this stage. The result made them one of the highest-scoring teams in this competition.

Despite eliminating them from the Airtel Top 8, Saturday’s clash will be their ultimate test as they will be looking for their only silverware after also missing out on the league and the FDH Bank Cup.

In the TNM Super League, they survived relegation on the final day of the campaign with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, who finished as bronze medalists.

Makawa’s side scored 30 goals and conceded 31, winning 8 games, drawing 13 times and registering nine defeats in 30 league games.

Their dangerous men

Binwell Katinji and Chikaiko Batison are Civil’s men to watch as they have tormented Bullets in the last four league games.

Katinji’s experience saw him netting two goals in succession in the first and second rounds of this campaign.

The forward has pace and skill and is flexible on the ball, giving him an advantage to create spaces for either Luke Chima or Patrick Phiri who would then make runs into the offensive zones before delivering dangerous crosses into the box.

He is a big game player who was on target when they defeated the Nomads in their last league game of the 2023 campaign.

In the midfield, the Capital City side also has Lloyd Aaron who makes things happen for them especially when he partners with Moses Banda. Their combination makes it very difficult for any opposition to dominate because the midfield is packed and well-covered.

In our Airtel Top 8 first-leg meeting, Banda was a used substitute who was brought on late in the second half and made his side press and create more than three goal-scoring chances but were unfortunate not to find the back of the net.

In the second leg, the duo played together and Bullets struggled to contain them. They scored two goals though late as Bullets won the match due to their 2-0 first-leg victory. With Frank Willard injured, Kalisto Pasuwa should work on a plan to stop the two gifted midfielders from dominating.

Their dominance creates plenty of chances for Katinji, Chikaiko Batison and Luke Chima. They can also take long-range shots that mostly cause panic in the opposition penalty area. Surely, the midfield battle will decide the fate of the two teams on Saturday.

How they have fared in cup games

Since their successful 2015 Standard Bank Cup campaign, they haven’t done well in cup games regardless of where they are playing.

They haven’t reached any cup final, and the farthest they have gone is a quarterfinal place. Civil last won a trophy eight years ago.

But the Servants are one of the two teams to have recorded cup wins over Bullets at Kamuzu Stadium in the last nine years, having eliminated us from the Standard Bank Cup in the semis as they went on to win the trophy courtesy of a lone strike from Nelson Kangunje to beat Wanderers at Civo Stadium.

Then Silver Strikers came in 2016 to knock Bullets out of the then FISD Challenge Cup through Blessings Tembo’s second-half strike. But since then, The People’s Team has had a very successful run in cup games at home.

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