By Mikia Kalati
MASERU — Matlama coach Mofihli Makoele is confident of a change in fortune when his charges face old enemies Lioli at Setsoto Stadium on Saturday.
Makoele remains winless since taking over at the Sea Point outfit last month and is hoping to prevail in what is generally regarded as Lesotho’s biggest domestic football fixture.
The former Rovers and Matlama defender told the Lesotho Times his charges are undergoing special preparations leading to the blood-and-thunder clash and are confident of beating the Teyateyaneng-based league champions.
Matlama enter the weekend fixture in third position on the 14-team Premier League table, while Lioli are in second spot. Bantu lead the charts on 39 points, with Lioli and Matlama on 35 and 32 after 17, 16 and 17 games respectively and Makoele is fully aware his charges cannot afford any more losses if they are to challenge for the league title.
“This is a match we badly need to win,” admitted Makoele, whose team has drawn 0-0 against Qoaling Highlanders and lost 1-2 to Mpharane Celtic since his arrival.
“We are working extremely hard in training and trying to rectify our weaknesses, while we also plan to punish Lioli because we have since spotted their weak points. I studied them in their recent loss to Bantu and managed to see where they are struggling.”
Makoele believes the loss against Celtic was unwarranted, insisting: “We were not supposed to lose against Celtic at the weekend; this was all due to the wrong attitude of our players.
“The statistics clearly showed we were the better side as we had 18 attempts at goal, while Celtic only had four the entire 90 minutes.
“They only had two chances in the first half and managed to get goals on both occasions, while we had plenty, but failed to bury them.”
Lioli coach Mosholu Mokhothu, on the other hand, said he was aware of the threat Matlama pose to his team’s ambition of retaining the league title.
“They have a new coach who has not won since taking over and that, by itself, and the magnitude of the match, is a big threat,” Mokhothu said, adding however, his side is also desperate for a win.
“Our main goal is to retain the league title and we can only do that if we win important matches like the one coming at the weekend.”
However, Lioli could face their fiercest rivals with some of their key players sidelined by injury.
“Mohau Kuenane, Bushy Moletsane, Motlalepula Mofolo, Jerry Kamele and Tšepo Seturumane are being assessed by our medical team, and could miss the tie against Matlama.”
Mokhothu also said he was preparing his players mentally so they do not undermine their opponents whom they beat in the first round league encounter, as well as LNIG Top8.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Likhopo host Linare at LCS Ground in another potentially explosive tie. Linare, who occupy fourth position on 30 points after 16 matches, still have a chance of winning the league title provided they win all their remaining matches while Bantu and Lioli slip-up.
Also on Saturday, Mpharane Celtic host Melele at St Michael’s, and Nyenye Rovers are at home to Joy in St Monica’s.
Bantu, who are chasing their first-ever
Premier League title, are in action on Sunday against LMPS, with LDF hosting LCS at Ratjomose and Qoaling Highlanders entertaining Mphatlalatsane.
Full fixtures at a glance
Saturday: Lioli v Matlama (Setsoto Stadium), Mpharane Celtic v Melele (St Michael’s), Likhopo v Linare (LCS Ground), Nyenye Rovers v Joy (St Monica’s)
Sunday: Bantu v LMPS (Mafeteng), LDF v LCS (Ratjomose Ground), Qoaling Highlanders v Mphatlalatsane (Qoaling).