Wounded Matlama host table-topping Likhopo on Saturday in a potentially explosive Maseru derby set for LCS Ground.
Tse Putsoa go into the match after failing to live up to expectations in last weekend’s Independence Cup tournament. Matlama lost to Lioli in the semifinal and LCS for a third-place finish although they had been the pretournament favourite.
On the other hand, Likhopo are in high spirits following an impressive run which sees them atop the 14-team Vodacom Premier League table. Likhopo are unbeaten so far this season with five wins and two draws—the only team without a loss in the 2015/16 premiership campaign.
Matlama coach, Moses Maliehe, told the Lesotho Times he hopes his charges bounce back from their disappointing Independence Cup campaign by handing Likhopo their first defeat of the season.
“I think the players’ attitude was the reason we disappointed in the tournament despite our good performance in the league,” said Maliehe.
“It is something that worries me and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.”
Matlama are joint second alongside Lioli on the premier league table with 16 points in seven matches, while Likhopo are one point ahead.
Maliehe, who was recently appointed national team interim coach in place of the sacked Seephephe Matete, also told the Lesotho Times he was not leaving Matlama for Likuena.
“I’m still with Matlama and my focus now is on improving the team’s performance and challenge for the league title,” said Maliehe.
“I will be meeting with LeFA officials soon to talk about the national team position. But what I can tell you is I’m fully focused on Matlama, as well as the national under-20 team.
“I prefer working with the under-20s and will only be in charge of Likuena on a temporary basis for the remaining 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.”
Maliehe also said he would not rush Mabuti Potloane back into action after the star-midfielder returned to training last week following five months on the sidelines due to injury.
“We need to protect him and make sure he is fully fit before he plays again,” Maliehe said.
On his part, Likhopo coach, Shalane Lehohla, said the Matlama match presents his charges with one of their biggest challenges this season.
“We are taking it one game at a time and will prepare very well for the clash because Matlama are a top side,” Shalane said.
“They have been doing well this season and what makes the match even tougher is it’s a derby.
“However, our target is to continue doing well and getting maximum points.”
The former Likuena midfielder also said “team work” was the reason behind Likhopo’s impressive run this season.
“The players have showed a lot of determination and courage but I think team work has been the key to our success,” said Lehohla.
“I know it’s still early in the season and we still have a long way to go for us to start talking about our performance. However, we want to do well like any other team in the league, so we will go for it against Matlama.”
In another Vodacom Premier League match set for Saturday, winless Mphatlalatsane host Kick4Life in Maputsoe. Mphatlalatsane anchor the table with two points from two draws, while Kick4Life are eighth with 11 points. The Butha-Buthe derby between Likila United and Sundawana rounds-up Saturday’s league matches.
On Sunday, newly crowned Independence Cup champions Bantu, travel to the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Roma for a date with Rovers, with LCS hosting Lioli at LCS Ground, LMPS at home to Liphakoe and LDF entertaining Linare at Ratjomose Barracks to complete the weekend’s fixtures.
Fixtures at a glance
Saturday: Matlama v Likhopo (LCS Ground), Mphatlalatsane v Kick4Life (Maputsoe), Likila United v Sundawana (Butha-Buthe).
Sunday: LCS v Lioli (LCS Ground), Rovers v Bantu (Machabeng Ground-Roma), LMPS v Liphakoe (PTC), LDF v Linare (Ratjomose Barracks).