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Battle lines drawn

Moorosi Tsiane

THE battle lines have been drawn for the kingdom’s biggest football clash as Matlama meets league champions, Bantu, in the Vodacom premier League at Setsoto Stadium this afternoon.

The country’s most successful side with 10 league titles, Matlama, will be out to end Bantu’s winning run which started last season.

Tse Putsoa go into the match sitting second in the 16-team league table with 21 points from 10 matches, trailing Bantu by six points.

The Seapoint outfit has already lost twice this season while A Matšo Matebele are yet to lose. Another important statistic; Matlama have conceded six goals this season while Bantu has conceded just two.

Matlama are the only team to hold Bantu last season despite clashing thrice; twice in the league and once in the MGC Top 4. All three matches ended in one-all draws.

Both teams go into the match on the back of comfortable mid-week wins with Matlama beating Sefotha-fotha 2-0 while Bantu thumped Swallows 0-3.

But for Matlama coach, Molebatsi Mothobi, the statistics are substance of history. His side has prepared well for the match and all that is left is for his charges to rise to the occasion.

“We have prepared well but we also know that we are playing a strong team that is much more organised,” Mothobi said.

“When rivals meet, it is more of a psychological match because the game itself becomes a motivation for players. So, in terms of mental strength; all is set, we must just manage our team to remain focused for the entire match. There is no room for mistakes in such matches.”

And given the rivalry between the two sides, more pressure will come from the fans. Mothobi is wary of all that.

“It will not be an easy match. Supporters are expecting nothing but a win, so we must get our tactics right. The spirits are high in camp and we are motivated by the mid-week win over Sefotha-fotha.”

Whatever the result, what is more important is remaining in the title race.

Bantu coach Bob Mafoso is also not taking anything for granted. His side has been ruthless and also beat other arch-rivals, Lioli, recently. Yet he is not expecting a walk in the park today.

“It’s not going to be an easy match. Matlama are the only team that we failed to beat last season and I’m sure they want to maintain that record of not losing to Bantu.

“Matlama are one of the highest scoring teams but our advantage is that they are conceding more than ourselves. Winning against Matlama would be important because it means we would have opened a nine-points’ gap over them

Mafoso’s only worry this afternoon is uncertainty over the availability of on song striker Lazola Tjokotjokwana, who is nursing an injury.

“We will only know tomorrow (today) if he is available. While his absence would be a blow, we still have experienced players who can fill the void.

“On a positive note, it is impressive to see the players’ hunger in all matches. We are blessed with quality and we should be grateful for that. We had five changes against Swallows and we still played in the same manner, so I can’t say there are any sings of complacency,” Mafoso said.

In other league matches today Likhopo welcome Liphakoe at LCS Ground while Lijabatho entertain Kick4Life in Morija.

In form Linare travel to Nyakosoba to face Manonyane while LMPS take the short trip to Ratjomose to face LDF.

Lifofane welcome LCS in Butha-Buthe while CCX are at home against Sefotha-fotha at Hlotse LCA Ground.

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