MASERU — Lioli face Bantu in Mafeteng on Saturday knowing that a loss could all but rule them out of the league championship race.
Tse Nala are in seventh place in the Vodacom Premier League with 15 points and although they have three games in hand, a loss against a title rival could be a fatal blow.
Lioli have a poor away record and haven’t won on their travels this season.
If Lioli lose they may as well kiss their championship hopes goodbye.
But speaking to the Lesotho Times yesterday Lioli coach Halemakale Mahlaha said defeat was not on his mind.
“It’s not in my head. We are going there for three points. We started planning on Sunday,” Mahlaha said.
“Where we are (on the league log) we don’t belong there and we need to work hard to climb up the table. Fortunately one of the teams that is above us is Bantu and we have a chance to move closer to them.”
Lioli will be without their new man Teboho Nthako who was signed from Bantu in a high profile deal last month.
Nthako made a good start to life in Teyateyaneng when Lioli won 4-2 over Mabeoana.
He was however sent off after scoring the winner in Lioli’s 1-0 win over Swallows.
Meanwhile, Mohapi Ntobo and Brown Makobe who moved from Lioli in the transfer window were outstanding in defence in A Matšo Matebele’s victory over Linare two weekends ago.
Mahlaha said he hoped Nthako’s replacements would rise to the occasion as the 2009 champions seek to remedy a slow start to the season and penetrate a Bantu side that has only conceded once at home.
“We have Bafokeng Mosala, Soai Mosola and Lekhotso (Morapeli) who can also play there,” Mahlaha said.
“I am hoping they will rise to the occasion. We know that Brown and London (Ntobo) will be aggressive because they want to show that they can still play for Lioli.”
Lioli face a Bantu side that is high on confidence and has seen their path to the top open up after the weekend.
With games in hand, Bantu are in control of their destiny.
Elsewhere, on Sunday new boys Maduma shocked previously unbeaten LDF in Butha-Buthe with a solitary goal win while on Saturday LCS shot to the top of the league with a 2-0 win over Linare at the Central Prison.
Nevertheless A Matšo Matebele, in fifth place with 20 points, have three games in hand on Masheshena who have 24 points.
It means that Bantu would be guaranteed top spot at the end of the first round if they win their remaining three games.
“I have been given the mandate to win the league or at least be in the top two. Linare and LDF have slipped up and this is our chance to take advantage,” Bantu coach Tšehla Lerotholi told the Lesotho Times yesterday.
Bantu are without the suspended Likano Teele who was red-carded last time out against Linare, but in a clash of two of Lesotho’s most supported teams, the home side are still slight favourites.
The Mafeteng faithful have been crucial to Bantu’s season and A Matšo Matebele are the only side with a perfect home record this season having won all three of their games in Mafeteng this season.
Last time they beat Linare 1-0 with 10 men.
But Lerotholi was coy as to whether a win against their great northern rivals Lioli would mean they are in pole position for a first-ever national championship and the M100 000 grand prize.
“If we win the nine points that are remaining in the first round then it will give us a clear picture of where we are going and where we need to go,” Lerotholi said.
Expect fireworks in Mafeteng on Saturday.