By Mabvuto Kambuwe:
The battle for Airtel Top 8 Cup semifinals enters an exciting stage as Silver Strikers host Be Forward Wanderers at Silver Stadium in Lilongwe this afternoon.
Masters Security and Kamuzu Barracks (KB) will also be in action at Dedza Stadium today to determine the two teams to join Mzuni and Karonga United in the last four.
Both Karonga and Mzuni advanced to the semis after scoring in their away matches against TN Stars and Civil Sporting Club, games that ended in 1-1 draws.
But the epicentre of this afternoon’s quarterfinal ties will be the match involving inaugural winners Silver and runners-up Wanderers.
Heading into the match, Silver have an advantage after winning the first leg 1-0, thanks to Khuda Muyaba’s goal at Kamuzu Stadium.
For Wanderers to progress, they need to win by a two-goal margin whereas Silver just need a draw.
The two teams have some of the best players in Malawi, with the ability to tear apart any opponent.
But Wanderers have the edge over Silver after winning on four occasions in the two teams’ six cup meetings since 2013.
The match will be a big test for interim Coach, Albert Mpinganjira, who replaced his elder brother Bob last week after the Nomads’ 3-1 loss to Blue Eagles.
Mpinganjira’s biggest headache will be to find replacements for defence pillars Peter Cholopi and Lucky Malata who are injured.
But Silver have all their best weapons for the crunching tie and new team manager, Itai Nundwe, believes the Central Bankers have one foot in the semifinals.
“We have to be at our best to contain Wanderers but we have the edge. We did well in the first leg and we are confident that we will make it to the semifinals,” Nundwe said.
Silver will pin their hopes on seasoned campaigners Khuda Muyaba, Michael Tetteh, Yinus Sherriff, Duncan Nyoni and Thuso Paipi.
While admitting that they made life difficult for themselves in the first leg, Mpinganjira is upbeat of overturning the tables.
“There is nothing special we have done to the players apart from motivating them so that they have self belief. It is possible to overturn the tables and we will do it,” Mpinganjira said.
In today’s match, the Nomads will put faith in Babatunde Adepoju, Francis Mkonda, Zicco Mkanda and Richard Chipuwa.
In the other match in Dedza, Masters will be looking to overturn the tables after losing the first leg match 2-1 at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe.
Nation Harazi and Chimwemwe Chisambi were on target for KB whereas Juma Yatina scored for Masters.
Masters need a 1-0 victory to progress to the semifinals whereas KB can advance with a draw.
Masters Coach, Abbas Makawa, knows that victory is a must.
“KB celebrated in the first leg but we will hit them where it pains most. We will not give them space at all,” Makawa said.
Masters would be hoping to repeat last season’s heroics which saw them lift the Carlsberg Cup after edging Wanderers 4-3 on post-match penalties.
KB Coach, Billy Phambala, said his team was ready to qualify for the semis.
“We are going there to finish them off. It will not be easy but our game-plan will work,” Phambala said.
Masters’ trump cards are Yatina, Bernard Chimaimba, Mussa Manyenje and Mphatso Dzongololo whereas KB have dangerous weaponry in Manase Chiyesa, Marshal Maluwa, World Nkuliwa and Sam Gunda.
The winner between Wanderers and Silver will meet either Masters or KB.