Many TNM Super League fans would not have wished for a better start to the 2023 season than the clash between Silver Strikers and defending champions FCB Nyasa Big Bullets at Bingu National Stadium on Saturday.
The People’s Team begin their defence of the league title away to the side they snatched it from in the 2020/21 season in which The Bankers had opened a commanding 11 point lead over Bullets only to struggle in the second round and eventually lose the championship.
The Blantyre giants, who have returned to the same venue a week after they defeated their cross-town rivals Mighty Mukuru Wanderers to retain the NBS Bank FAM Charity Shield, will strive to send a clear message of dominance to the rest of the teams dreaming of snatching the title away from The People’s Team who have dominated the championship for the last four straight seasons.
On the other hand, The Central Bankers will be looking forward to starting the league campaign on a very high note after finishing poorly in the 2022 season, where they failed to make it into the top four.
The Area 47 side, who were the runners up in the 2020/21 season, struggled and had mixed results despite making some signings and changes to their technical panel.
It will no doubt be a grudge match, especially on the side of The Bankers who lost twice to The People’s Team in the league and the Airtel Top 8 Cup.
The last time Bullets lost to the Area 47 side in a league match was on 9th May 2021 at Silver Stadium through a last-minute strike from Maxwell Phodo, who is now playing for the defending champions.
Despite the short turnaround time between seasons, only Silver Strikers have experienced profound changes in personnel, most notably in the way of technical staff.
The Bankers, within the last twelve months, have changed the head coach thrice, with Daniel Kabwe replaced by interim Leo Mpulura before he got demoted to the junior team as they hired Pieter de Jongh on a full time basis.
As for Bullets, they lost midfielder Chimwemwe Idana to Tanzania’ Mbeya City before he was loaned out to Saturday’s opponents and he is likely to play a vital role for his new team against his former club.
Bullets also lost striker Babatunde Adepoju who won the Golden Boot award after scoring 18 goals and was a key figure for Pasuwa’s title winning campaign last season.
But the resignation of Mike Mkwate is a relief to The People’s Team as he was described by Pasuwa as ‘playmaker who will make the team play’.
The Bankers have no injury concerns ahead of the tie, but Bullets will be without Precious Sambani and Gomezgani Chirwa, who are both recovering from injuries sustained during the national team engagements whilst Hassan Kajoke is still on pre-season having missed the majority of Kalisto Pasuwa’s training sessions.
In the last 18 meetings between the two teams, Bullets have had more victories (eight) than Silver’s three in the league matches played since 2013.
The last victory for Bullets saw them hammering their opposition 3-1 at Kamuzu Stadium, with all the goals coming in the opening 23 minutes of the match.
Last season, the two teams shared three points each as the Central Bankers scored late through Maxwell Gasten to claim a 1-0 victory at Silver Stadium before losing the reverse fixture at Kamuzu Stadium courtesy of second half strikes from Chimwemwe Idana and Precious Phiri.
In the 2019 season, Bullets claimed a double over their rivals with a 3-1 and 1-0 wins, respectively.
The two teams then shared one point apiece in 2018 when the first round and second round matches ended 1-1 and 0-0, respectively.
But in 2017, Silver Strikers got the better of Bullets when they forced them to a 1-1 draw at Kamuzu Stadium before claiming a 2-1 win in the second round at Silver Stadium
Bullets then collected four out of possible six points over the Area 47 side when they drew 1-1 in Lilongwe before beating them 2-1 at Kamuzu Stadium in the reverse fixture in the 2016 season.
2015 saw Bullets claiming two wins over the Reserve Bank of Malawi sponsored team, beating them 2-0 at Kamuzu Stadium and 2-1 at Silver Stadium in Lilongwe
The last meeting between the two giants in the league at BNS saw The Bankers coming from behind twice to draw 2-2.
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