LAST year's finalists Rwanda start as favourites when they take on guest side Malawi in a Group C match of the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup this evening at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Kampala.
The match that starts at 5pm local time will see head coach Sredojovic 'Micho' Milutin assemble his best team, bearing in mind that a good start can help build the confidence of youngest squad in the tournament.
"We believe we had good preparations and I hope the hard work we put in on the training field will pay off with not only a good performance but also results," Micho told Times Sport on Sunday.
He added, "Before the competition starts, we have already achieved one big win for Rwandan football, which is by having the youngest team in the tournament. This is our investment for the future."
"We expect a tough match against Malawi but we are ready for any sort of challenge at this tournament. I am very much aware of the fact that in our group, every match will be extremely tough. That is why we need to approach every match as a final," noted the Serb, who guided Amavubi to last year's final despite being in charge for just a month.
After the disappointment of missing out on the 2013 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in South Africa, Micho would definitely be determined to excel in the regional championship.
Micho is likely to start with Jean Claude Ndoli in goal, a back four of Hamdan Bariyanga and Mwemere Girinshuti as full backs, Emery Bayisenge and Ismail Nshutiyamagara in central defence.
Haruna Niyonzima, Jean Claude Iranzi and Ntamuhanga Tumaine could form a three-man midfield with strikers Dady Birori, Jerome Sina and Jimmy Mbaraga completing a 4-3-3 in a three-man attack.
Malawin coach Phiri knows what is ahead of him this afternoon and he has instructed his boys to go for three points to enhance their chances of making it to the quarterfinals.
Moses Chavula will captain the side that has rookies such as Bongani Kaipa, Micium Mhone, Patrick Masanjala, Innocent Bokosi, George Nyirenda, Owen Chaima and Richard Chipuwa.
There are six players from the squad that reached the quarter final in the last Cecafa Cup edition held in Tanzania last year.
"Rwanda is a good team. We have a balanced side with experienced and young players and all we want is a win," Phiri said.
Rwanda last won the title in 1999 when the tournament was first held in Kigali. Rwanda B beat Kenya 3-1 in the final at Amahoro stadium.
Winning start for Uganda, Ethiopia
Ethiopia and hosts Uganda snatched late victories to ensure a winning start in this year's competition.
The Walya Antelopes, who brought a second team to the tournament, beat debutant South Sudan 1-0 courtesy of a 60th minute strike from Yonatal Kebede Teklemariam.
Uganda Cranes overcame rivals Kenya by the same score. Geoffrey Kizito, who plies for Vietnam's Saigon Xuan Thanh, broke the deadlock on 80th minute to score a fine header from skipper Hassan Wasswa.
Cecafa Tusker Cup
Today, Group C
Zanzibar vs Eritrea 3pm
Rwanda vs Malawi 5pm
Burundi 5-1 Somalia
Ethiopia 1-0 South Sudan
Uganda 1-0 Kenya