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Battle lines drawn

Moorosi Tsiane

ALL roads lead to Setsoto Stadium this afternoon as country’s two big guns, Bantu and Lioli, face off other in an Econet Premier League derby.

The two sides have clashed 16 times and Bantu have an upper hand having won seven while Lioli won only three and the rest ended in draws.

Both teams will be hoping to bag their first win this season after Lioli were handed a 1-2 shock defeat by Kick4Life in their season opener last weekend. Bantu on the other hand sweated for a point that was secured five minutes before the final whistle through a goal by debutant Neo Mokhachane.

Mokhachane’s goal broke the resilience of Sefothafotha who had steadfastly held on to their one goal lead on Saturday hoping to records a memorable win against the defending champions.

With a new technical team, Lioli are hoping to finally find their feet against their hoodoo team this afternoon.

Lioli coach, Lehlohonolo Thotanyana, said although he is not expecting an easy match, they are ready for the game.

“Bantu have been winning against Lioli for a long time and it is now getting to the heads of both the players and the supporters,” Thotanyana said.

“It is one thing that we have to end but that is not going to be easy. We have been trying to work on our players’ mindset to ensure that they are ready by Sunday (today) because this is a big match and we need to be strong in all respects.”

He said his side still has some challenges that he still needs to rectify.

“We still have some challenges that we need to work on which resulted in our loss in the first match. However, we are working hard to get the team into shape. Our biggest challenge is our goalkeeping department,” he said.

He said he is happy that his charges have recovered from the Kick4Life loss.

“The players accepted the loss and I think that is because they noticed that we lost because of their mistakes. They have since shifted their focus onto the Sunday match which is really a big one,” he said.

Thotanyana, who won the League title with Lioli in the 2013/14 season, said the loss of their midfield kingpin, Tšoanelo Koetle, has left a huge gap in his team and they miss his services.

Koetle was barred from playing for his club starting with the opening fixture against Kick4Life on last Sunday.

The talented anchor-man and former Likuena midfielder has been in trouble since he refused to undergo a drug test in October last year.

Koetle was last year ordered to appear before a disciplinary hearing that was to be convened by the Lesotho National Olympic (LNCO) in its capacity as the local National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO).

The player has also been side-lined from national duty pending finalisation of the case.

“His absence has left such a huge void in our team because he has a huge influence on the team’s performance. Our players also believe in him so his absence has negatively affected the squad in many ways.”

Bantu coach, James Madidilane also said the match is going to be a mammoth task for his side especially following their disappointing draw last weekend.

“This is going to be a tough match for both teams but with us it also comes with lot of pressure that we did not play well in our opening match so we are desperate for maximum points,” Madidilane said.

“Lioli also had a bad start and lost their first match and that means they will be all out like wounded lions so we cannot undermine them. What is important is for us to get maximum points.

“This is one of the biggest matches in our league so it needs everybody to be in the right state of mind. In that regard we have been working very hard as a team and preparations have gone well. Last weekend’s loss is now water under the bridge and the focus is on the Lioli match,” Madidilane said.

In other League matches today LMPS travel to Mohale’s Hoek to face Majantja at DIFA Ground while LDF take a short trip to LCS Ground to face Kick4Life.

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