Vodacom Premier League title-holders Lioli are just are a week away from their Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League preliminary round fixture against Burundi’s Vital’ô.
The first of the two-legged tie is set for 14 February at Setsoto Stadium with the return fixture scheduled for a week later in Bujumbura.
Local teams have been failing to advance past the opening match of this tournament for so long some of us have almost given up on the competition. But with Lioli facing a team from Burundi—a country that is not one of the football powerhouses of the continent—one is tempted to become hopeful of a breakthrough this time around.
Vital’ô have an awesome record which includes 19 league title, and that suggests they are a team that cannot be taken lightly at all.
Formed in 1960, the Bujumbura-based outfit have made eight appearances in the CAF Champions League, reaching the second round twice, the first round once and failing to go past the preliminary stage four times.
There is no doubt Vital’ô are veteran continental campaigners while Lioli have won the premier league title four times and would only be making their second appearance in the Champions League.
Tse Nala first took part in the continental showcase in 2014 when they lost in the preliminary round to Primeiro de Agosto of Angola. Lioli lost the fixture 3-2 on aggregate after going down 2-0 away in Luanda and winning the reverse fixture 2-1 at Setsoto.
Tse Nala are top of the premiership table with 33 points from 14 matches, while Matlama are second with 29 points.
Goal-scoring is one of the most vital things for a team to win matches and Lioli coach Mosholu Mokhothu must be relieved that he has three strikes— Bafokeng Mosala, Nkoto Masoabi and Junior Maba—who can find the back of the net anytime.
New signings Tumelo Khutlang and Obakeng Modirwa also seem to have settled well in the team, which gives the coach more options for each and every game.
It is indeed going to be a real battle when the Lesotho champions battle their Burundi counterparts but the game might be won or lost, in the first-leg fixture. That is the game each of the teams would be hoping to win resoundingly in order to take a comfortable cushion into the reverse match two weeks later.
I believe Lioli have enough quality to match any side on their day, hence I am tempted to approach this game with confidence.
Yet the problem is this has happened before and I, and many fans like me who always hope for a positive result from our football, have left the stadium heartbroken after yet another defeat.
But like I said, I hope Lioli will do the nation proud and bring something to cheer about for our nation.