BLACK Leopards attacking midfielder Tumelo Khutlang is doubtful for the first leg of Likuena’s 2022 World Cup preliminary qualifiers against Ethiopia on Wednesday due to a groin injury.
The left footed midfielder was injured during Leopards’ ABSA Premiership clash with Kaizer Chiefs last month but has been called up into the senior national team that is travelling to Ethiopia this morning.
Makhopo, as Khutlang is affectionately known, featured in Likuena’s preparatory match against LCS on Friday where he only played 10 minutes before being subbed.
Newly appointed Likuena coach Thabo Senong told the Sunday Express that they were still monitoring Khutlang and they were hoping he would be fit by Wednesday.
“All players have joined the team except (Tswarelo) Bereng and (Nkoto) Masoabi whom we will meet at the airport on our way to Ethiopia on Sunday (today) morning,” Senong said.
“My only worry is Tumelo’s (Khutlang) fitness as he is not yet completely fit. However, our medical team is working on getting him ready for the Wednesday match. If he doesn’t make it for the first leg, I just hope he will be ready for the return leg next weekend.”
The former Bafana Bafana assistant coach said he was racing against time to prepare the team for the crucial encounter but said the technical team has been very helpful.
“I am really racing against time in preparing for the coming match but I have been relying extremely on the coaching staff (assistant coach Mpitsa Marai, interim coach Leslie Notši and goalkeeper coach Sam Ketsekile), who have been very helpful.
“I also have recordings of the previous Likuena matches especially this year’s COSAFA matches and the CHAN second leg against South Africa.
“I respect details and I am passionate. I respect opposition analyses and also respect set play preparations, so these are the things that we need to work on. Most teams are tactically organised lately and it becomes difficult to score, so we need to take chances on set plays.”
Senong said he was also trying to maintain the chemistry between the players in the team and keep them motivated.
“I am also trying get information from players about what makes them tick. I will slowly try to impact my playing philosophy. It’s going to take time but so far, I am happy with the positive response from the players. Their response is a motivating factor for me and it is clear that with time, we will achieve big things with this team.
“We still have a few days left to prepare for the matches and we just need to maintain team spirit and keep them motivated. We must ensure that there is chemistry because it is when they are happy that they will deliver.
“We need to get ready for Ethiopia and if things are really bad, the worst result we will come back with is a draw but otherwise we are hoping for a win,” Senong said.
Senong said winning the preliminary qualifiers was important especially to the players as it will give them chance to play at the group stages.
“If we win against Ethiopia, it means we are guaranteed six international matches which will be good for the development of the players. Qualifying for the group stages will help our players with exposure and who knows, maybe scouts will also start to follow them again. Lesotho has been exporting players to South Africa lately and that is good and I will be pleased to see more players leaving the country to play in foreign leagues because they have the potential,” he said.