The nation’s attention will be fixed on Kamuzu Stadium this Sunday as crosstown rivals FCB Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Mukuru Wanderers battle it out for points in one of the most exciting title races in recent history.
Blantyre is split into blue vs. red, and their history, bragging rights, and the right to rule the city at stake.
That’s not all, this year’s addition has a couple of twists especially for Wanderers who are level on points with Bullets, but they have played more games than the log leaders.
By looking at the log table, it is a must-win game for the Lali Lubani boys in order to stop Bullets’ early celebrations because a win for the defending champions will see them open up a three-point lead with three more games in hand to play for.
It’s a match that will have bad consequences for the loser, especially if the loser is Wanderers.
The People’s Team may have monopolized domestic football for too long. They go into each local game they play as favorites, and more often than not, they live up to this tag, hence winning four league titles on the trot and are favorites to clinch their fifth title.
Nevertheless, the Blantyre Derby is and remains the biggest game on the land. This Sunday, the 72nd installment in its 36th season in the league returns to the oldest football stadium in Malawi.
For 90 minutes, the passionate supporters of both clubs will watch the match with much interest, knowing fully how the race will end if one of the teams ends on the losing side.
Bullets’ reserve product Patrick Mwaungulu, whose development since graduating to the senior side at the start of the 2022 season, has been very outstanding for the log leaders this campaign and he is fully aware of the expectations come 3:00 PM on tomorrow.
“We must play the game, not the occasion. The most important thing is to enjoy it and get the results. We have been playing well, and we deserve to be on top. We need to get it done and focus on other competitions. We badly need results on Sunday,” he explained.
On the other hand, Wisdom Mpinganjira, a graduate from Wanderers’ reserve team, is also looking forward to having a gland game, having tormented Bullets in the first leg.
“When you cross the white line, there is a lot at stake in front of thousands of our fans. But we have to focus on doing our best and getting maximum points for the team. It won’t be easy, but we can do it. We did it in 2020/21 season, and we can do it again so that we keep on pushing for the title,” he said.
The two teams have had some remarkable results in their last five to eight games. The People’s Team had an excellent league run in which they registered four out of their last five games, moving top of the table to date. They defeated Bangwe All Stars 1-0, Moyale Barracks 3-2, Chitipa United 2-0, and recently, Kamuzu Barracks 3-2.
In cup games, they successfully retained the FDH Bank Cup with a comfortable 3-0 hammering of Mafco FC, beat Civil Service United 2-0 in the first leg of the Airtel Top 8 Cup quarterfinal match before they lost the return leg 2-1 to proceed to the semis with a 3-2 goal aggregate.
They also advanced to the Castel Challenge Cup Round of 32 with a 2-0 win over Division One side, Lipulumundu FC.
Overall, they scored 17 goals, conceded 7, and kept five cleansheets in their last nine games across all the competitions.
Seven of those goals were scored in the league matches.
As for the opposition, they have had five league wins in eight matches, drawing twice and losing once, scoring 13 goals, conceding four, and keeping three cleansheets.
In the Castel Challenge Cup, they hammered Katete Super Rangers 10-1 in Round 64 to proceed to Round 32, where they left it late to beat FOMO FC 1-0. In total, they have played ten games across all the competitions, winning seven, scoring 23 goals, conceding five, and keeping five clean sheets.
They are second in the standings with 53 points due to their inferior goals scored against Bullets’ 45.
An equalizer from Muhamad Sulumba with two minutes left to play brought back Wanderers to life after they staged a comeback to draw 3-3 at the same venue.
At some point, the match was 3-1 in favor of Bullets who were destined to collect all the three points only for them to surrender their lead towards the end of the match.
In the ongoing season, the first round match ended goalless despite being dominated by Wanderers who pressed from all angles, created lots of goal scoring opportunities but fired blank against a side that had no shot at goal.
For the past decade, Wanderers only registered victory over their bitter rivals once, a 1-0 win courtesy of a first half strike from Vincent Nyangulu in September of the 2020/21 season, but since then, it has always been Bullets getting the better of their opponents in the elite league.
Last time out, the derby ended goalless despite being dominated by Wanderers who pressed from all angles and created more goal scoring opportunities, but they lacked the finishing composure in the final third.
The Nomads would want to push for an early goal and disturb their opponents who, in recent matches, have had early goals to manage their fitness levels due to the congested fixtures.
However, Bullets are the masters of Blantyre derbies. With injuries hitting them hard, many will see them as underdogs going into this showdown, but they can produce results out of nowhere.
In 2017, Wanderers were favorites to beat Bullets who had several of their key players injured, but the People’s Team carried the day with an emphatic victory to remind their neighbors that when it comes to bragging rights, Blantyre City belongs to them.
Heading into this match, both teams have a remarkable defensive record, conceding 15 and 14 goals, respectively.
Bullets have scored 45 goals, 11 more than their rivals, who have hit the back of the net on 34 occasions.
This looks likely to be a very special derby where the winner will have all the reasons to walk around the town with heads up high.
The coveted Blantyre Derby in league matches has always promised to entertain, but after a few less than impressive clashes in previous seasons, there is no doubt derby has to some extent, lost its x-factor, as fans, especially from Wanderers, have been given very little to celebrate.
But on Sunday, both teams will be hoping to resurrect the ‘dead derby’ to the satisfaction of supporters who will come out of their large numbers.
Pasuwa will still be without several players due to injuries. Ephraim Kondowe and Gomezgani Chirwa are the latest casualties in the injury list as they will not play any role in the Derby.
But, he has welcomed back defender Clyde Senaji and the midfield duo of Patrick Mwaungulu and Stanley Billiat to the squad following recoveries to their injuries.
As for Harrison, he has every player at his disposal to choose from. He will also welcome Nyangulu, who missed last week’s win over Bangwe due to a suspension.
What the two coaches said ahead of the match…
Pasuwa; “We have been preparing ourselves after the midweek game that we played against the unknown team from Mangochi. But, you saw it yourself that it’s a small team by speaking, but the mindset made them play well against us. If you take any side to be a small team, you will have problems, and that’s the mindset that we have been giving our players when we are playing Wanderers.
“And I think it’s better to play Wanderers than these other unknown teams because we know them, they are our rivals. We played on Wednesday, recovered on Thursday, and regrouped on Friday. We collected some of the mistakes that we did against Lipulumundu in order for us to perfect everything against Wanderers. From the mindset that I have seen in my players, they are looking ready for the match.”
Harrison: “We need to enter the game with a positive frame of mind to get a positive result. If we can get three points, then pressure back to Bullets. We got everything to play for, and I have told my players to be positive and bring the result.”