Vodacom Premier League newcomers Rovers begin their campaign today against big guns Matlama at LCS Ground.
Nine-time league champions Matlama come into the match in buoyant mood following last weekend’s 1-0 and 2-0 wins against LCS and Lioli respectively, to win the Alliance Winter Challenge at Setsoto Stadium.
The Dynamites, as Rovers are affectionately known, are making their second return to the premier league after being relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season.
However, Matlama coach Moses Maliehe on Friday told the Sunday Express that last weekend’s matches were now water under the bridge as the league championship is a completely different kettle of fish.
Maliehe says it is important for Matlama to win today’s match to set the right tone for what promises to be a bruising campaign.
“We played well last weekend, beating two of the big teams in our league but Sunday’s match will be different. We are over the excitement of last weekend’s wins and the focus now is on Rovers,” Maliehe said.
“I have told my players the importance of winning this match as it is our first fixture of the season. I believe if we can win our first five matches, it will be a good start for us.”
Maliehe, who is also the national under-20 team coach, said the team’s pre-season preparations had gone according to plan although there is still room for improvement.
“Our pre-season campaign went very well and I must say I have confidence in my players to deliver. But Rovers, like any other team in the premier league, deserve respect and I have warned the players against complacency when we face them on Sunday,” said Maliehe.
The former Lioli technical director said he was aware of the danger Rovers could pose but at the same, insisted his charges were ready to prove last weekend’s stunning results were no fluke.
“They are going to come as underdogs and since we know very little about how they play, this will be an awkward match for us. But like I said, Matlama is a big team so the boys and the coaches understand the importance of winning this match,” Maliehe added.
The veteran coach, who revealed he would be without the injured midfield duo of Mabuti Potloane and Tumelo Maine, also said Nkesi Rankhasa, John Mohai, Selikoe Mokhothu and Khotso Molulela would not be available for selection as they are representing their schools in Copa Coca-Cola tournament which started in Maseru on Friday and ends today.
“We will be missing a few of our players due to injury and school commitments, but we have a big squad here so I think we are covered. In any case, we still managed to beat Lioli and LCS without Mabuti and Maine last weekend,” he said.
On his part, Rovers coach, Pule Khojane, said the Nationa University of Lesotho (NUL) side is raring to go and give Matlama a good fight.
“We are ready for the season, and we have not had any special training simply because we are facing Matlama. We know them quite well; how they play and their huge support base, but there is no pressure for us to beat them so I am confident we will get the results we are looking for,” Khojane said.
“We don’t have any big names in this team and playing Matlama would be difficult. But still, we are ready to face any team because we earned the right to be in this league.”
In other premier league matches scheduled for today, LMPS welcome Bantu at PTC Ground, Mphatlalatsane visit LDF at Ratjomose Ground and league rookies Liphakoe host Likila United at Quthing Pitso Ground.