Alliance Winter Challenge showdown
PREMIER league football giants, Bantu, Matlama, Lioli and LCS will lock horns during the weekend pre-season Alliance Winter Challenge.
The tournament which is in its third season, features the three teams sponsored by Alliance Insurance Company namely, Matlama, Lioli and LCS. The fourth team participates by invitation and this year, league champions Bantu are the guest side.
Bantu will play defending champions LCS in the first semi-finals at Setsoto Stadium at 1pm and thereafter, Lioli and Matlama will renew their rivalry.
LCS coach, Mpitsa Marai, said they were ready to defend their title, adding their preparations had focused on the physical aspect of their game.
“The tournament comes at the time when our focus has been on their physical part of the game working on the players’ endurance and strength,” Marai said.
“There is still a long way to go in our preparations for the new season as we are still to get to the tactical aspects.
“It is therefore difficult to promise anything fancy.”
He said they would also use the tournament to assess the new faces, adding there was the possibility of adding a few more players before the new season begins.
Bantu coach, James Madidilane, said his side’s approach to matches remained unchanged.
“You don’t get much from winning the competition except that it gives us a platform to test our players against a competitive side as we prepare for the new campaign.
“It is also a chance to see what the new players can offer.”
He said he was likely to rest Thapelo Mokhehle and Hlompho Kalake who had seen a lot of action with the national Likuena side at the regional COSAFA Cup.
He also suggested that Itumeleng Falene and Thabiso Mohapi could feature as they did not see a lot of action with the national team.
Meanwhile, Lioli coach, Halemakale Mahlaha, said he would give a chance to fringe players who saw little action last season.
“Our pre-season has started very well though we have a few players struggling with injuries.
“I would say that 95 percent of our players are ready to play in a competitive tournament.
“It is a good platform for players that did not play a lot of games in the previous campaign to show us what they can do.”
He however, bemoaned the absence of last season’s standout player, Tumelo Khutlang.
The talented left winger is training with South African National First Division side, Mthatha Bucs, where he is reportedly on the verge of penning a contract.
“We will miss him as he had a big influence but we have to find a way to play without him,” Mahlaha said.
Matlama Public Relations Officer, Tankiso Moletsane, said his side was ready to face their old foes.
The country’s most successful side have been busy in the market and last season’s hotshot, Nzenze Nkulu, looks set to don the blue and white shirt this time. Nkulu scored 17 goals for Linare.
Veteran midfielder Pali Tšalong is also back at the club after missing last season due to work commitments and could be unleashed in the pre-season competition alongside Lisema Lebokollane who also makes a return after a loan spell with Lerotholi Polytechnic.
Moletsane said their target was to improve on their disappointing eighth place finish in the 2016/17 season and compete for silverware once again.
“We have new faces at the club such as Nkulu and Lebokolane and we want to see what they will bring to help us compete better.
“Everyone knows that we did not do well last season and it would boost the team spirit if we do well in this tournament,” Moletsane said.