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Giants clash in Top8 decider


Moorosi Tsiane

LCS coach Mpitsa Marai has warned his players against complacency when they face Likhopo in today’s return leg of the LNIG Top8 quarterfinal set for LCS Ground.

Winners of the lucrative tournament take home M100 000, while the runners-up pocket M80 000. A third-place finish guarantees M60 000, with the fourth-placed side taking away M50 000. The four teams which fail to get past the quarterfinals each receive M35 000.

But according to Marai, his charges would need to be fully focused to prevent Likhopo from overturning the 1-0 defeat they suffered in the first leg of the tournament. LCS are on a five-match winning streak which sees them occupy second place on the 14-team premier league table. On the other hand, Likhopo have been inconsistent of late after starting the season on a high, and are fifth on the table.

But according to Marai, Likhopo remain a dangerous side despite their recent struggles.

“Normally, such matches are never easy, especially when your team has a one-nil advantage because that is not a safe cushion at all. We know Likhopo are going to come at us like a wounded tiger but we are ready for them,” Marai said.

The former national team defender further spoke about the players’ mental fitness for the tie.

“We have talked about their mental fitness which we emphasized that it needs to be up there. The players also know there is no room for complacency and that we need to go out there and look for more goals. They also know we can only do that by playing offensively to avoid giving Likhopo room to play and attack us. By being offensive, we will keep them at bay and in the process, get the goals that we need without conceding any,” he said.

Marai further attributed the team’s good run to the experienced players in their ranks.

“Our team is very balanced, which makes things a little easier for the coaches. In every position, we have a senior player competing with a junior so that makes our combinations very ideal.

“One other thing is we have very dedicated players. Our youngsters are always willing to learn, either from the seniors or the technical team, so that is encouraging to us as their coaches,” said Marai.

For his part, Likhopo team manager, Qamako Mahao, said the fight for a semifinal place was far from over.

“We have talked with the players and coaches so everybody understands the challenge we are faced with on Sunday,” said Mahao. “We have what it takes to beat LCS and I am confident we will achieve just that.

“What could be a challenge is that most LCS players are Likhopo products, which means they know us very well.”

Mahao also said the team’s inconsistency of late was cause for concern.

“We started well and because we were the surprise package of the season, we had a very good first round of the league campaign. However, all the teams have done their homework on us; they know us well now.”

Meanwhile, Matlama face LDF in today’s other LNIG quarterfinal, second leg match.

The tie takes place at LCS Ground and Matlama would be hoping to overturn the 1-0 defeat they suffered in the first leg match a fortnight ago.

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