Mighty Mukuru Wanderers start their Airtel Top 8 title defence this afternoon with a tricky quarter-final first leg fixture away to Silver Strikers at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
So many talking points from this encounter which promises firework for Lilongwe and surrounding areas football fans.
The two teams have two things in common—They both are out of the FDH Bank Cup and they dread finishing the 2023 season trophy-less.
While Wanderers won the Airtel Top 8 last season, Silver have two of them under their belt, but have not won any silverware for the past two years having last won the FDH Bank Cup in 2021.
The two sides, who form a trivalent of Malawi’s football giants alongside FCB Nyasa Bullets, will be meeting in the competition for the third time and stats favour the hosts.
Silver won the inaugural Airtel Top 8 final in 2017 after dramatic post-match penalties which ended 10-9 following a goalless draw.
The two sides managed to avoid each other in the competition only to be paired against each other again in 2019 in the quarter-finals.
The Bankers one again triumphed but this time there was no need for post-match penalties as Khuda Myaba lone goal was enough for the Bankers.
From then, the Bankers also seem to have found a winning formula for the Airtel Top 8 as they went on to win their second title after beating Karonga United in the final.
However, in 2021 Silver finally met their fate as they lost to Bullets who claimed their first Airtel Top 8 title.
In contrast, Wanderers only managed to win their first ever Air Top 8 last season after beating rivals Bullets who failed to defend the title.
This afternoon’s encounter is unpredictable as both Wanderers and Silver have been inconsistent.
Wanderers have won one out their last three fixtures. They were held to a one-all draw by Kamuzu Barracks in the league before they were booted out of the FDH Bank Cup by Mafco after a 1-0 loss to the Salima-based soldiers.
But the Nomads got their act together and managed to beat Karonga United 2-1 in the league in their last fixture.
The Bankers’ season has also been full of ups and downs. They have also won one out of their three last league matches.
They were held to a goalless draw by Extreme FC; beat Moyale Barracks 4-1 before a 1-0 loss to Dedza Dynamos Salima Sugar in their last fixture.
Both sides’ coaches admitted that the quarter-final first leg is going to be a tough one.
Wanderers’ Mark Harrison said as defending champions, they need to start strongly.
“Obviously, we want to defend the title if we can, but it is not an easy game, by any means. It’s two legs and we don’t need to be on the wrong side of the result in the first game, we need a positive result to bring home. I think It’s going to be a hell of game. Two strong sides; I am expecting a big and tough one.
Silver will be without their head coach Pieter de Jongh, who left the country on Friday following the expiry of his work permit.
The responsibility of steering the team to glory now lies in assistant coach Etson Kadenge Mwafulirwa.
He faces a mammoth task of ensuring that the Bankers utilise home advantage in the match.
Mwafulirwa said the Bankers are looking forward to the match and are ready for the showdown.