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LioliMikia Kalati

The 2015/16 Vodacom Premier League season explodes into life on Saturday with a double-header at Setsoto Stadium pitting defending champions Lioli against Sundawana, while LCS face Kick4Life.

The LCS/Kick4Life tie kicks-off the campaign at 1pm, with Lioli and Sundawana completing the blockbuster fixture which is expected to set the tone for what pundits and teams alike, expect to be a close and thrilling fight for domestic football’s most prestigious title whose winner pockets a cool M200 000.

Last season, Lioli were runaway winners of the title with the previous season’s winners, Bantu, ending the season in second place, but after teams such as Matlama and LMPS boosted their squads during the offseason, predicting the outcome of the campaign would not be easy.

Lioli attacking midfielder, Montoeli Sonopo, told the Lesotho Times that Tse Nala are even stronger this season and want nothing but the maximum three points against Sundawana to set the “right” tone for the 26-match season.

The Teyateyaneng-based champions lost 2-0 to Matlama in the final of the Alliance Winter tournament last Sunday at Setsoto but Sonopo is not reading much into the heavy defeat. The midfielder also said the team was determined to win the game and ultimately the league championship in honour of the legendary Moeketsi Pitso—Lioli’s long-serving public relations officer who passed away last Saturday after a long illness.

“From what I have seen, the team is much stronger than it was last season and I’m confident we will win the match in memory and honour of Ntate Pitso,” Sonopo said.

“Sunday’s loss to Matlama was a wake- up call to us all because I feel the quality in our team makes it unstoppable this season.”

“There is competition for a starting place in the team and that makes it more dangerous because no-one wants to disappoint if given an opportunity to play among such a large pool of talented players. I predict another memorable season for us; we have prepared very well for the long season ahead and it’s now all-systems-go,” said Sonopo.

However, Sundawana public relations officer, Bokang Phasumane, said Lioli are in for a shock come Saturday.

“We have bought new, quality players and our preparations have also been very successful. We won a pre-season tournament that featured Likila United, Maduma and Butha-Buthe Warriors and the team is looking extremely good as we head into the new season,” Phasumane said.

“The good thing also is that our coach, Freeze Ntene, has recovered from a short illness and is back with the team. We will give the defending champions a run for their money on Saturday.”

After holding their own in their debut season in the premiership last season, Kick4Life go into their second topflight campaign with more confidence, according to head-coach Motlalepula Majoro. According to Majoro, his charges would be fighting to secure a top-eight finish that not only guarantees survival from relegation but also participation in the LNIG Top8 tournament. That journey to success begins on Saturday against LCS, and Majoro talks about the match with such confidence.

“Our preseason preparations went very well although things were very slow at the beginning due to one or two issues, but I believe we are ready for the big task ahead of us,” Majoro said.

“We did not make any major signings as I prefer to work with young players. The new players we have here were promoted from our youth team as well as one youngster from Matlama, who I believe will add value to our cause and help us compete for a top-eight finish.”

On his part, Bantu forward Mokone Marabe said the team was in high spirits following the arrival of new coach Katiso Mojakhomo.

“All we want now is to get back to action because we have done everything to prepare ourselves for the season,” Marabe said.

“It will not matter who will be in the starting line-up in our league-opener against LMPS on Sunday; our supporters should expect fireworks when we take to the field to set a marker right from the beginning.”

New Matlama coach, Moses Maliehe said his team is brimming with confidence after the emphatic 2-0 win against Tse Nala last Sunday.

“We just want the games to begin so that we continue with our good run,” Maliehe said.

“I’m happy with the performance of the team, but there is always room for improvement.”

Full weekend fixtures

Saturday: Lioli v Sundawana (Setsoto-3pm); LCS v Kick4Life (Setsoto 1pm); Linare v FC Likhopo (Hlotse-3pm).

Sunday: LDF v Mphatlalatsane (Ratjomose-3pm); Liphakoe v Likia (Quthing-3pm); Matlama v Rovers (Pitso Ground-3pm); LMPS v Bantu (PTC-3pm).

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