Champions Bantu face their archrivals Lioli at Setsoto stadium today in one of domestic football’s most anticipated fixtures.
A Matšo Matebele, as Bantu are popularly known, pipped the then defending league champions, Lioli, to the Premiership crown last season, and both sides are favourites for the title again this term.
A big crowd is expected to descend on Setsoto for today’s clash, as the two sides are currently the most supported in Lesotho, and remain unbeaten in the 2014/15 season.
After prevailing over Lioli in both the first and second round league matches last season through 2-1 and 1-0 scorelines, Bantu would be hoping to repeat that feat this campaign, thereby setting themselves up for the defence of their title, which they won after 87 years of trying.
According to coach Motlatsi Shale, his charges are in the right frame of mind to beat Lioli following their 5-1 thrashing of Sundawana in Mafeteng on Saturday last week—Bantu’s third successive win in as many matches this season.
Lioli, on the other hand, beat police side LMPS 1-0 on Wednesday to record their second win of the season in as many league ties, setting the stage for what should be an entertaining match at Setsoto this afternoon.
Shale insists his players are geared for the Lioli showdown and could not have come into the match better motivated, following their flawless performance against Sundawana.
“We are going into this match with our heads high after last weekend’s emphatic victory against Sundawana. This was our third match of the campaign, and we are yet to lose since the new season started last month.
“The team is in good shape; we have worked on the players’ mental fitness because how the boys are going to react before the match against Lioli would be very important and have a bearing on the outcome of the tie,” Shale said.
Shale emphasised he was not going to underrate Lioli and had cautioned his players against complacency in today’s tie.
“Lioli are a very good team; they have quality players, but we still managed to collect all the six points against them last season, which also says a lot about Bantu’s strength as a team. But I have also been working hard to ensure the players don’t get over-excited before the match as Lioli will punish us for any slip-up that we might make. This is going to be a tough match, and we should not be found wanting in any way. I am looking forward to a win on Sunday because we have the quality to do it.”
According to Shale, Bantu were looking at winning all their first-round matches to set the tone for another successful second round of the season.
“My aim is to win all our first-round matches, but we will be careful that our players are not put under unnecessary pressure, as we go for this perfect record,” said Shale said.
On his part, Lioli coach, Mosholu Mokhothu said his charges would be more aggressive in today’s match with the hope of getting an early goal.
“Bantu beat us twice last season and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again this time around. In Sunday’s match, we have to be more aggressive and search for an early goal as it will help us settle down and start playing our own brand of football without being under pressure to get an equaliser,” Mokhothu said.
Mokhothu further said although playing Bantu always comes with pressure for Lioli, he would make sure the players remained composed and concentrate on the job at hand.
“It is always tough when we play Bantu, but we have been working hard to ensure that we do not lose focus during the match. I believe our win against LMPS on Wednesday will be a motivating factor coming into Sunday’s match,” he added.
Mokhothu also said the fact that Lioli have nine players in the national side had come to haunt Tse Nala as the supporters now expect nothing but victory from the team.
“The fact that we have many players in the national team has made the supporters believe that we have got to win each time we play.
“Although this shows that we have quality at Lioli, their being members of Likuena also means I have limited time to work with them, which somehow affects how I would want them to play. But I will not be using this as an excuse should anything happen because each time we go onto the pitch, we do so with a winning mentality and it will be the same approach we will take on Sunday against Bantu.”
Meanwhile, in other Vodacom Premier League matches set for today, Nyenye Rovers host on-song LCS at St Monica’s Ground, while Matlama are at home against Kick4Life at Pitso Ground. Struggling LMPS host Qoaling Highlanders at PTC Ground to complete the weekend’s Premier League fixtures.