Home Sport VPL title contenders face tricky schedules 

VPL title contenders face tricky schedules 

by Lesotho Times
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Leemisa Thuseho 

WITH the Vodacom Premier League (VPL) edging to a fascinating ending, the remaining fixtures for each of the top three teams will play a crucial role in determining the league winners. 

In this piece we look at what the top three teams will have to go through in their last lap of the race. We also look at how the relegation battle will unfold as we head to the final stage of this interesting campaign. 

This weekend will be a catch-up week for the teams which are behind with games. As per the fixture Lijabatho will welcome Bantu at Bambatha Tṧita Sports Arena on Saturday while LDF will take on LCS at Ratjomose Ground. 

On Sunday Matlama will take a trip to Leribe to face Linare at Maputsoe DiFA Stadium. 

After the catchups, all the 16-teams would have played 26 games and left with only four to go. 

VPL Log standings top three as at 14 April 2024 

Ahead of the catch-up Lioli are still at the top of the log standings with 60 points. The Teyateyaneng, Berea, based giants have been doing well all the season. But looking at their remaining fixtures they are faced with a mammoth task if they are to claim victory and win the league for the first time since 2015/16. 

The Motheo Mohapi coached side is faced with a very challenging four games left. Amongst the teams they are to play are title contesters Bantu and Matlama.  

The fact that they are yet to play the likes of Matlama and Bantu suggests there could be plenty more twists and turns to come in the title race. This will be a real test of character for Mohapi and his boys. 

If they wish to defy the odds and be crowned champions, Lioli will have to avoid dropping any points along the way. If they win the title, Mohapi will be the happiest man to win the league in his first attempt as Lioli coach. 

Since Mohapi’s arrival at the beginning of the season, Lioli have been riding the wave of impressive performances and that gives their supporters a firm belief that the team will lift the trophy come the end of the season. 

Lioli’s remaining fixtures 

Lioli vs Linare- home 

Lioli vs Bantu -away 

Lioli vs Lifofane – away 

Lioli vs Matlama – home 

What makes the fixtures more difficult is that Matlama and Bantu are still in the title race while Linare (on position four with 46 points) are vying to protect their top four spot. Lifofane also can be a challenge to Lioli looking at their recent performance. They form part of the top eight teams on the log standings. They sit on position seven with 42 points. They will be tough for any opponent as they want to stay in the top eight. 

Second placed Matlama are also faced with tough remaining fixtures. They will be hoping to maximise their point tallies from now until May, but they face some stiff opposition from Lioli, Linare, and Bantu, amongst others. 

When looking at Matlama’s remaining fixtures, it’s hard to argue they are easier (on paper) than Lioli’s – and that make matters more interesting. This is because both still must play each other and are also yet to play defending champions, Bantu; and even the troublesome Linare. 

Matlama remaining fixtures 

Matlama vs Linare -away 

Matlama vs Bantu -home 

Matlama vs Limkokwing University- home 

Matlama vs LCS – away 

Matlama vs Lioli- away. 

Matlama will hope to make use of the catch-up match against Linare on Sunday and collect three points which will take them to 60 points. Thus, they will be levelled on points with Lioli. Goal difference will then determine which side goes on top. 

LCS and LU may seem an easy opponent, on paper, for Matlama. But three points are not guaranteed for Matlama against the duo. LCS are in fifth position with 43 points, and they still hope for a top four finish. Thus, they are also desperate for points. 

Following a very inconsistent run along the race, LCS seem to be getting back on its feet since the appointment of new coach Thabile Secker early last month. 

LU on the other hand is not a team to take for granted. This is their first season in the topflight, but they have so far proved to be a competitive side. They are in position ten with 28 points and are sure to survive relegation. 

Winning the current VPL title is too good to miss for Matlama coach, Halemakale Mahlaha and his boys, as they are chasing a treble this season. They have already won the People’s Cup soccer tournament in Mants’onyane, Thaba Tseka last month. Before then, they had won the Alliance Soccer Challenge in September 2023. 

Those who have their bets in favour of Bantu defending the league title are slowly losing hope but should Lioli and Matlamaunnecessarily drop points in the remaining fixtures, Bantu can still catch up. 

However, that would not be easy. The most difficult fixtures remaining on the Bantu schedule include encounters against Linare and Matlama. 

Again, most of their remaining games except one against Lioli, will be played away. 

Bantu remaining fixtures 

Bantu vs Lijabatho- away 

Bantu vs Matlama- away 

Bantu vs Lioli – home 

Bantu vs CCX- away 

Bantu vs LMPS- away 

Having Lijabatho, LCS and LMPS in their remaining matches also makes the fixtures very tricky for Bantu. In the first round Bantu played to a goalless draw with LCS on 20 December 2023 at LCS Ground. Again, Bantu failed to beat Lijabatho in the first round. They played to a 1-all draw at Mohale’s Hoek DiFA Stadium on 29 November 2023. 

The other tough opponent Bantu is set to deal with is LMPS. LMPS edged Bantu 1-0 in the first match on 20 January 2024 at Mohale’s Hoek DiFA Stadium. 

Relegation battle heats up 

The relegation battle has also turned to an interesting point with Naughty Boys deep into the VPL drop zone. ACE Maseru performance which keeps on a downward spiral has seen them recently slip into the danger zone. CCX and Manonyane are not safe either. 

As things stand ACE Maseru, CCX and Manonyane are tied with 17 points each occupying 13th, 14th and 15th positions respectively on the log standings. Naughty Boys are hanging at the bottom with 10 points. All the teams are left with four games to go. 

None of the four teams managed to win their matches over the weekend. 

Log standings bottom four as at 14 April 2024 

Naughty Boys survival chances are very slim unless a miracle happens. They have been occupying that position for most of the season and there are no signs of improvement. 

They have 12 points remaining to play for. Can they collect all the points? Technically, the answer is a resounding NO! Not when they are yet to play LDF, LCS, LMPS in their remaining fixtures. These teams form part of the top 8 on the log standings. Naughty Boys also have Lijabatho in their remaining games. 

ACE Maseru have fair remaining fixtures out of which they can collect some points. In their four remaining games they will play relegation threatened Manonyane, and Liphakoe which is also struggling. Tricky matches will be against LDF and LU. 

Like Naughty Boys, CCX will have to run for their money if they are to survive the chop. Can they make it against LMPS, Bantu and LCS? if yes, they would stand a chance to protect their place in the VPL. The other team in their remaining fixtures is Manonyane. 

As for Manonyane, their serious worrying opponent in their next four games is Linare. From there they should be smart enough to go for maximum points against ACE Maseru, Liphakoe and CCX. 

At the end of the race, two bottom teams will be relegated to A-Division League. And by the look of things, it will be Naughty Boys and any other team between CCX, ACE Maseru and Manonyane. 

 

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