MASERU — Reigning Premier League champions Lioli host Linare this afternoon in the Great North Derby — one of domestic football’s fiercely contested clashes.
The two teams with great traditions go into the match with contrasting fortunes.
Going into this weekend’s menu of fixtures, Lioli were on top of the Vodacom Premiership and looking to retain their league title.
Three-time champions Linare, on the other hand, are without a league honour since 1980, and lie 10th on the Premiership log, having lost their last two matches.
In the corresponding fixture last season, the two sides played to a one-all draw.
But Linare’s recent inconsistent form means Lioli will be clear favourites for today’s match.
And working in Lioli’s favour is the side’s incredible home form.
Lioli are unbeaten in the league in Teyateyaneng since last January ? an impressive run of fourteen league matches.
In fact, since September 2007, Lioli have only lost four times in the 37 league games the team has played in Teyateyaneng.
But one of those sides to have beaten Lioli is Linare, who claimed a 1-0 win over the popular outfit on November 17, 2007.
Meanwhile, there will be an equally do-or-die clash at the Central Prison where third-placed Vodacom Soccer Spectacular champions Matlama face LCS.
LCS, popularly known as Masheshena, are in seventh place on 21 points but such is the congested nature of this year’s championship that going into this weekend’s games the top seven sides in the 16-team Premiership were only separated by seven points.
The game will be Mafa Ramakau’s first match as Masheshena coach after last week’s match versus Majantja was called-off at the 11th hour (due to a referees’ boycott of Majantja matches to protest violence on match officials by the team’s fans) and a win over Matlama would bring LCS back into the title picture.
But the game is also important for Matlama.
“It’s very important that we win. We didn’t do too well the last time I was in Leribe and we need to get the three points this time around,” Matlama coach Ntebele Taole said.
On their last visit to Leribe, Matlama drew two consecutive matches against Mphatlalatsane (1-1) and Joy (0-0), on December 19 and 20, 2009, respectively.
Taole also said he felt Ramakau’s arrival would be a positive factor.
“We will see how they are playing in the first five or 10 minutes and then react accordingly,” Taole said.
“He is a very good coach. We are expecting a different LCS.”
In Butha-Buthe, the Vodacom Premier League’s bottom side Butha-Buthe Roses host Mphatlalatsane.
Roses are on a six-match losing streak and have not won since beating Nyenye Rovers at the beginning of November.
At Fokothi, Lerotholi coach Naleli Tšilo will take charge against his former side LMPS, while Majantja and Rovers are scheduled to clash in Mohale’s Hoek.
Matlama vs LCS (Pitso Ground); Lioli vs Linare (Teyateyaneng); Butha-Buthe Roses vs Mphatlalatsane (Butha-Buthe); Lerotholi Polytechnic vs LMPS (Fokothi)
Majantja vs Rovers (Mohale’s Hoek)