The LNIG Top8 competition gets underway this Saturday, with the giants of Lesotho football vying for the M100 000 winners’ prize.
There is no doubt the picks of the draw, which was conducted on Wednesday last week, would be between Lioli against LCS as well as LDF versus Matlama, with both matches taking place on Sunday at Setsoto Stadium and Ratjomose Ground, respectively.
Tse Nala begin their title-defence without two key players—striker Tšepo Seturumane and defender Basia Makepe—who are both undergoing training at the Police Training College.
There is no doubt that their absence is a big blow to Lioli’s ambitions to wrestle the league title from Bantu, as well as defend the LNIG trophy.
Seturumane is arguably one of the best players in the country at the moment, while Makepe is a top defender, whose five goals last season underscored his pedigree a footballer.
Matlama, on the other hand, appear a team on the rise and this week, were expected to complete the signing of last season’s Vodacom Premier League player of the year, Mabuti Potloane.
The former Linare skipper has been training with Tse Putsoa since the start of the New Year and is likely to feature for the nine-time league champions this weekend against LDF.
Potloane will surely make Matlama even stronger, alongside his former teammate, Kopano Motaung, who is now also at Matlama.
On the other hand, Bantu fans might be happy their team got an easy draw when they were paired against struggling and bottom-of-the-table, Qoaling Highlanders.
Yet I believe it might not be that easy for Bantu players because their eyes are now on next month’s African Champions League match against Mangasport of Gabon.
A Matšo Matebele have a lot on their plate at the moment as they also have to keep pace with Lioli in the league title race, which means concentrating on three crucial competitions at the same time.
The Mafeteng-based outfit have also had to include friendly games against the likes of Bloemfontein Celtic and Free State Stars to their busy schedule in preparations for the continental club competition.
The other team that has to come to the party is Linare, who were far from convincing in last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Highlanders in a league match.
Tse Tala play the first leg of the quarterfinals against Likhopo in Maseru on Saturday, but it was clear for everyone to see they are missing the talents of their inspirational captain, Potloane, who was leading the revival of the Hlotse-based team for the last three seasons.
The fact that he was able to win the 2013/14 player of the season award yet Linare had not won any trophy, showed he was really the heartbeat of Tse Tala.
The gifted midfielder was leading from the front as Linare finished third in the league last season, as well as reaching the final of the LNIG Top 8, where they eventually lost to Lioli.
Then there is Likhopo—a team that has failed to live up to expectations. This makes predicting the outcome of their match against Linare very difficult as both sides have been very inconsistent.
However, credit should go to the sponsors of the competition, Lesotho National Insurance Group, (LNIG) who have increased the sponsorship from M300 000 to M600 000.
This development would now see clubs getting more money for their sweat—almost twice what they received last term.