The encounter between the two teams is always an explosive affair. It’s a rivalry that was synonymous with senior sides when they used to clash in Confederation of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Cup in the 70’s and 80s.
Over the years this fierce rivalry has trickled down to junior level as such the games between the two sides are always tantalizing encounters you cannot afford to miss.
The Zambians are miles ahead of Malawi as far as the game is concerned especially on the senior level and looks poised and strong on the paper on junior level ahead of the Saturday encounter.
In the previous encounters that has propelled Malawi to this stage, the team has demonstrated a peculiar attitude, settling for a draw at home but sewing up everything in the away encounters.
During the first preliminary encounter, the Junior Flames drew 1-1 with Botswana in Blantyre and demolished the Tswanas 2-0 away in Gaborone.
Again in the second preliminary games, they (the Junior Flames) tied with Democratic Republic of Congo 1-1 and downed them 2-0 away.
This is unsettling scenario Malawi mentor does not want to happen in the encounter against their sworn rivals.
“We can’t do the same against Zambia. They are ruthless and we need to win at home to enhance our chances of qualifying,” says Mtawali.
Mtawali argues Malawi must utilise home ground advantage at all cost this time around and has said that he is working with his backroom staff on the psychology of his players to ensure that this should be done at all cost.
“We have also been working on their mind as well to give them a positive mindset ahead of the game,” he told a local Daily earlier this week.
Malawi was supposed to play Lesotho over the weekend to tune up for the Zambian game but due to financial hiccups the Sothos failed to pitch up.
But Mtawali is not disturbed by the failed international friendly, he told the state owned MBC this week that he will do with what he has to prepare for the game.
Malawi will need the magic of its talismanic striker, Chawanangwa Kawonga and Khumbo Ng’ambi to pull off the required result.
Dalitso Sayilesi and company on the midfield has the duty to keep the supply lines open for their colleagues upfront to do the job at the same time Miracle Gabeya must keep the rearguard shut from the Zambians.
But the Zambian Coach, Hector Chilombo is not taken up by the paper strength arguing that Malawi has dislodged teams which have sound youth development structure to reach this far and must not be underestimated.
“They will not play as underdogs. That is why we will not underrate them. We are taking this game seriously because our aim still remains to qualify to Senegal,” says Chilombo.
The Junior Chipolopolo side has been dealt a body blow by unavailability of playmaker, midfielder Lubambo Musonda who was in Armenia where he has just signed for Ulisses Football Club.
Another player, who will not make it for the game is defender, Benedict Chepesi who has just sustained leg injury while attending trials in Portugal.
Nonetheless, it is not doom and gloom for the Zambians who have already filled in the void left by the dual by bringing in Austin Muwowo who has replaced Musonda while Sweden-based defender, Peter Mulenga has filled the shoes of Chepesi.
With the absence of Musonda the heavy burden will now be borne by Mbewe and company on the midfield while Dave Daka, Patrick Ngoma and Seth Sakala upfront must find the vital away goals.
The responsibility to keep Malawi’s Kawonga on check who has netted most of the Junior Flames goals will rest in the hands of Mulenga.
Midfielder, Langton Mbewe has been given the responsibility to lead the Junior Chipolopolo on the field of play-he has the captain arm band.
To reach this stage, Zambia walloped Mozambique with aggregate goal score line of 4-0.