NTHAKO M AJORO
MASERU – The 2018/19 Econet Premier League (EPL) title race rages between Matlama, LCS and Bantu in the pick of the fixtures, in which the trio must win to increase its chances of clinching the coveted trophy at the end of the season.
Current log-leaders Matlama who suffered a bitter 1-0 thumping at the hands of arch rivals Bantu last weekend take on FC Kick4Life tomorrow.
On Sunday, second-placed LCS take on LDF while defending champions Bantu face Linare.
On an average, the league is left with eight matches to go with Matlama not so comfortable on the pole position as they lead runners up LCS with one point.
But Matlama collected their maximum points from 18 games while Masheshena (as LCS are popularly known) made theirs in 19 meetings.
A-mats’o-matebele of Mafeteng collected their 35 points from 16 ties, meaning they still have a chance to balance the scale.
If both Matlama and Bantu could win all their remaining matches, they have a chance to see the end of the current season sharing 65 points apiece.
For their part, Masheshena will end the season with a maximum of 61 points in the event they also do not lose any of their remaining games.
Like Matlama, LCS also lost their last league match when they went down 1- 0 to Sefotha-Fotha on Wednesday.
One of the most captivating encounters in the league will be a match between log-leaders Matlama and defending league champions Bantu on a date yet to be announced.
Bantu still have to meet LCS along with fourth-placed and former champions Lioli in both home and away matches.
In yet another eye-catching meeting, LCS face massive crowd-pullers Lioli at home on March 2.
Below are other remaining matches for the three major contenders
Majantja away (March 30)
Galaxy home (April 6)
Swallows away (April13)
On paper, these three matches are the easiest encounters for Masheshena. All their three opponents are notable relegation candidates.
Majantja sit on 12th place, while Galaxy are number 13 with Swallows on the bottom of the 14-team log table.
But because football is an unpredictable sport, LCS must not underestimate any of the three, especially now when each is keen to escape relegation.
Losing to Sefotha-Fotha who are relatively one of the smallest sides in the league two days ago must have been both a bitter pill to swallow and a wake-up call for Masheshena.
Liphakoe away (March 2)
LDF home (March 30)
Sefotha-Fotha away (April 13
Things do not appear to be necessarily too smooth for Bantu. Most of their remaining encounters are against some of the tricky sides and the craftiest among them being LDF.
The army side is looking to finish among the top four and qualify for the Independence Cup, also known as Top 4 Tournament.
LDF are trailing fifth-placed Kick4Life and fourth-placed Lioli both on 31 points with one point separating the soldiers outfit from the duo.
The only games in which Bantu are likely not to sweat blood to win might be against Sefotha-Fotha and Linare.
That, however is not a guarantee for the defending champions because Sefotha-Fotha (currently lying on position 8 after collecting 24 points) are definitely keen to cement their position among the top 8 bracket at the end of the season. This is more so since the 9th and 10th-placed FC Likhopo and LMPS are ahead of Sefotha-Fotha with one point.
Other remaining matches for Bantu like the ones against Matlama, Lioli and LCS are without doubt their toughest encounters.
Majantja home (March 3)
Galaxy home (March 9)
FC Likhopo home (March 30)
Sefotha-Fotha home (April 6)
Linare home (April 13)
Matlama are still favourites to win the league title even after they failed to collect any point from their last encounter against Bantu.
Tse-Putsoa are however tipped to win most of their remaining games (by some of the local football commentators).
Only their match tomorrow against Kick4Life and the catch up game against Bantu are regarded as the toughest fixtures for Lesotho’s most decorated champions.
“Matlama stand a good chance to emerge the league winners at the end of the season. But for them to realise that, they must beat Bantu when they meet again in a catch up tie,” said former Jomo Cosmos and LDF goalkeeper Motlalepula Sepipi.
Sepipi said chances that Bantu could win the league title for the third time in a row are not that big compared to Matlama’s.
He said James Madidilane’s charges were already exhausted from competing in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup.
“Bantu are from two difficult international games and the players are still exhausted. Therefore I don’t think Bantu could to win the league title again.”
Sepipi said on top of that, Bantu have very tricky remaining games, which might be too difficult to win.
He said the race for the league title was still tough to predict, saying LCS should also not be written off for the glory.
“But all in all, the league race is still tough and I like it that way.”
Former Likuena coach Monaheng Monyane said all the three league contenders have the material to win this season’s title.
But Monyane said that would depend on each team’s strategy and focus for their remaining games.
“The three teams’ coaches should know which materials (calibre and quality of players) they need to use for their remaining games and not only thinking that they would collect three points,” he said.
As much as Monyane considers the remaining Bantu-Matlama match as the most crucial tie for each in their quest to lift the league trophy at the end of the season, the veteran coach however said that would be the deciding match, regardless of which team would win at the end of the day.
“The Matlama-Bantu match is not going to determine which team between them will win the league title,” Monyane said.
“But that will be determined by the lowest teams that are yet to play against the lowest teams. A typical example of what I am talking about is the Sefotha-Fotha-LCS match played this Wednesday, in which LCS lost 1-0 to their relatively smaller opponents.
Monyane, however, said Matlama have material to go all the way and win the league trophy, than any of their competitors. Though the league race still remains tough, but Matlama have good materials compared to all other sides in the league.”