Matlama host bitter rivals Lioli in a potentially heated Vodacom Premier League match scheduled for Setsoto stadium this afternoon.
Following an agonising 10-11 loss to Lioli on penalties in the final of the 2014 Independence Cup after the match had ended 1-1, Matlama would be hoping to atone for that defeat in today’s blood-and-thunder fixture—the biggest in domestic football and one which has always met fans’ expectations.
What makes today’s tie even more mouthwatering is the fact that although Lioli won the Independence Cup final early this month, Matlama were the better side throughout the tie—a fact noted by Matlama Communications and Marketing Manager, Rankhethoa ‘Mota on Friday.
“Initially, we had thought the match would be postponed to another date since both teams had players in the national team, which played Angola in Luanda on Wednesday. But still, our team is in good shape and ready to take on Lioli. In fact, we are looking at starting from where we left off against them in the Independence Cup final, where we dominated the tie for longer periods, and we were clearly the better side on the day,” ‘Mota said.
Although conceding that Lioli are “a very good side”, ‘Mota said he was confident his side would collect maximum points against the Teyateyaneng-based outfit. Lioli have seven players in the national team, Likuena, which confirms their pedigree.
“They are a very good side with quality players, but that does not mean that we are going to find it hard to beat them, especially in our own backyard. We are going into the match full of confidence and expecting to leave the stadium with all the three points,” said ‘Mota.
However, Lioli coach, Mosholu ‘Shoes’ Mokhothu, said he was “a bit disappointed” that today’s match could not be postponed.
“I was so surprised and disappointed that after a very long trip to Angola, and two matches within five days for the national team, my players have not been given enough time to recover. I mean, we are playing against a very tough Matlama side, and such a match needs thorough preparations. So how do I prepare the team when I will only meet them once before the match because they only returned home from Angola on Friday morning?” Mokhothu said.
“We requested for the match to be postponed to any other later date, but it was only moved from Saturday to Sunday. As the Lioli coach, I don’t think justice has been served here because my players will be suffering from fatigue after the two back-to-back matches against Angola.
“Another thing is we all know the conditions under which the national team left the country when they went to Angola following the dispute over allowances, so mentally they are not fit. The 4-0 defeat to Angola could also have affected them, so I needed some time to work on their mental state.
“All this is going to have a negative impact on our game on Sunday, because seven members of the national team are my regulars.”
Mokhothu appealed to the supporters to bear with him should he decide to field “a changed team”.
“We might field a different team to the one which won the Independence Cup, based on the availability of the players and their readiness to play,” said Mokhothu.
Meanwhile, in other league matches scheduled for today, Kick4Life play Linare at Setsoto. The match kicks off at 1 pm, and would then be followed by the Matlama/Lioli clash.
Struggling Likhopo entertain Nyenye Rovers at LCS Ground, while Likila United host league champions Bantu in Butha-Buthe to round-off today’s fixtures.