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Bantu ready for title defence

by Sunday Express
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Mikia Kalati

Inspirational captain, Tlali Maile, has declared Bantu ready to begin their title defence when the 2014/15 Vodacom Premier League season gets underway next Saturday.

The Mafeteng-based giants, who won their first Premiership title last season, open their account against rookies, Kick4Life and Maile believes Bantu are good enough to retain the championship.

“We are ready to defend our title, but just like last season, we will take every match as it comes because what matters is the three points at the end of the day,” Maile said.

The hardworking centre-back admits there is still room for improvement, considering the way Bantu have played their pre-season friendly matches.

“The coaches are still trying new combinations, especially after the arrival of new players, but slowly but surely, we are getting there as a team. We will be ready when the new season starts, and every single one of us cannot wait for the matches to start.”

Maile further says he expects a tough season as most teams would be hoping to cause an upset by beating Bantu, as the defending league champions.

“We know what to expect and are prepared for whatever will be thrown at us. But what we will not do is underestimate any team, including our first opponents of the season, Kick4Life, simply because they are new in the league.”

A Matšo Matebele—who are close to securing the services of their former star-winger, Litšepe Marabe, who is returning home after an unsuccessful spell with South African first division side, Garankuwa United—are expected to be one of the strongest contenders of the title .

Marabe spent the whole of last season without playing in a competitive match due to complications in his registration. The gifted striker is expected to add depth to the Bantu attack, and play alongside last season’s top goal-scorer, Tsebang Lebata, and Dlomo Monaphathi.

This combination is set to create problems for opposing teams, hence Maile’s confidence that Bantu are ready to challenge for honours once again.

Elsewhere, last season’s runners-up, Lioli, are preparing to wrestle the league title from Bantu, with coach Mosholu ‘Shoes’ Mokhothu, telling the  Sunday Express that he expects his star-studded team to shine in the new season.

“We have not had the best preseason preparations because most of our key members have hardly had a break as they have been playing for the national team, Likuena, in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers,” Mokhothu said.

Tse Nala had nine players in the national team that beat both Liberia and Kenya to book a place in the group stage of the 2015 Afcon qualifiers.  Eight of the players were in the starting line-up against the Harambee Stars of Kenya three weeks ago in Nairobi, with the match ending goalless and Lesotho progressing to the group stage of the competition on a 1-0 goal aggregate, after winning the first leg 1-0 at Setsoto stadium.

“It’s really a concern that these players have not rested that much, but otherwise, they are in good shape as far as fitness is concerned,” Mokhothu said.

“So there is a brighter side to their involvement with the national team as they are very motivated and also super-fit, as we speak. However, at the same time, they will have to fight for their places in the team because we have a very good squad of quality players, and everyone would have to sweat to earn a place and not bank on reputation to cement a slot in the squad.

“We have a chance to work on the combinations in the little time we have before the start of the new season on 23 August, otherwise, I can say we are looking forward to the challenge and confident of doing well this time around,” said Mokhothu, whose team surrendered the title to Bantu last season.

Mokhothu also said he still hoped to add new faces to his squad as Tse Nala have only signed  defender Mkhwanazi Mkhwanazi from Mpharane Celtic.

Lioli start their new campaign against Sandawana FC, formerly known as Mpharane Celtic.

Kick4Life coach, Motlalepula Mojoro, on the other hand, has declared the Premier League newcomers ready for their opener against Bantu and told the Sunday Express that they will give the defending champions a run for their money in next Saturday’s opening match of the season.

“We are ready to fight with the big guns; we would want to remain in the Premier League and I think my youthful squad is ready to show what they can do on the big stage, and will not be relegated come end of the season,” Majoro said.

The newly promoted side, who will be competing in the topflight league for the very first time, has played eight matches in their pre-season, including against clubs outside the country.

“I have confidence in these boys and I’m also someone who is always aiming higher, so I see us finishing among the Top 4 teams at the end of the season,” he said.

Kick4Life have managed to add national under-20 stars, Tokelo Majoro and Pitso Monne to their squad, while also boasting of a good goalkeeper in Makhanya Makhanya, who was called to the Likuena squad while still playing in the A Division last year.

It is this embarrassment of riches that has given Majoro the confidence to declare Kick4Life title-contenders.

Premier League opening fixtures

23 August: LDF v Nyenye Rovers; Lioli v Sandawana FC; Mphatlalatsane v Matlama; Bantu v Kick4Life; LCS v LMPS.

24 August: Linare v Qoaling Highlanders; FC Likhopo v Qalo.

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