Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The 2018 LNIG Top 8 is here: Who wins it all?

The LNIG Top 8 is here... 

Defending champions Lioli launch their LNIG Top 8 title defence on Saturday afternoon when they face LMPS at the Maputsoe DiFA Stadium. The match will also serve as the curtain raiser for the competition’s 2018 edition with three other quarterfinal first leg ties taking place this weekend.

This year is the fifth edition of Lesotho’s richest cup tournament and here is a look at the eight quarterfinal contenders:

Lioli v LMPS
Lioli
Background: The LNIG Top 8 probably represents Tse Nala’s best chance of winning a trophy this season. The Independence Cup is already taken – Bantu saw to that last October by stealing that particular crown from Lioli. A Matšo Matebele also own a healthy seven-point lead in the Econet Premiership with nine games to play.

Tse Nala can still win the league; they still have to face Bantu again there. But the LNIG Top 8 represents the clearest path to silverware and avoiding a first trophyless season for Lioli since 2011/12. Promisingly for Tse Nala they are the competition’s most successful club having won the title in three of the four years it has been held (2014, 2016 and 2017).

Lioli’s run of success in Lesotho football:
Season
Premier League
Independence Cup
LNIG Top 8
2012/13
Champions
Did not qualify
Tournament not played
2013/14
Second
Finalists
Winners
2014/15
Champions
Winners
Quarterfinalists
2015/16
Champions
Finalists
Winners
2016/17
Second
Winners
Winners
2017/18
-
Fourth
-

Tšoanelo Koetle (second left) will be key for Lioli...
Can they maintain their trophy-winning run? Lioli go into their quarterfinal first leg tie against LMPS on the back of their first win under coach Morena Ramorebodi (a 1-0 league win over Majantja last weekend) and they are favourites over Simunye over two legs. As the competition progresses, however, a lot will hinge on the form of Tšoanelo Koetle. The Lesotho international midfielder hasn’t been at his brilliant best in 2018 and Lioli will need him to be if they are to claim a hattrick of LNIG Top 8 titles. Along with Bantu, the Teyateyaneng giants are the obvious picks to reach the final, at least.

Prediction: Finalists

LMPS
Background:  LMPS will be making their debut in the competition. Simunye were for a time Lesotho’s cup kings a decade ago. They won the Buddie Top 4 title in 2007, the Imperial Top 8 in 2008, the MGC Supa 8 in 2009 and the Independence Cup in 2008 and 2009. However, LMPS go into this year’s LNIG Top 8 as rank outsiders.

Can they cause an upset? Despite their low-key persona, LMPS are quite a star-studded side. One of them is former Lioli favourite Tšepo Seturumane. The Likuena star has continued his brilliance at the police side this season and has five league goals. Nevertheless, for Seturumane and LMPS to overcome Tse Nala will be tough.

Once Lioli’s bogey team, LMPS have a terrible record against Lioli over the last five years.

LMPS’s terrible record against Lioli
02/12/17
Lioli
2-1
LMPS
L
28/01/17
LMPS
0-2
Lioli
L
27/08/16
Lioli
0-1
LMPS
W
17/01/16
Lioli
3-0
LMPS
L
12/09/15
LMPS
0-1
Lioli
L
11/03/15
Lioli
7-0
LMPS
L
17/09/14
LMPS
0-1
Lioli
L
15/03/14
LMPS
0-1
Lioli
L
03/11/13
Lioli
2-1
LMPS
L
16/02/13
LMPS
0-1
Lioli
L
08/09/12
Lioli
2-0
LMPS
L

Admittedly, all the encounters have been in the league which is different from cup football. But LMPS have lost 10 of the last 11 games against LMPS and that is a horrendous record. It is difficult to see how Simunye beat Lioli, especially as they have to do it over two legs.
Prediction: Quarterfinalists

Matlama v Kick4Life
Mabuti Potloane and Matlama will be looking to end
the club's eight-year trophy drought...
Matlama
Background: Matlama are in the competition for a fifth successive season and join Lioli, Bantu, LCS and LDF as the only teams to play in every edition of the tournament. However, unlike last year when they were knocked out at the first hurdle, this year it actually feels like Tse Putsoa have a chance.

Whereas last season was a constant flop this campaign is turning out quite well and Matlama can still finish in the top two in the league. The change has been down to a happier and better organised unit since Mosito Matela took over as coach last October.

“We revised the roles of the players on the pitch,” Matela said earlier this year. “Each player had to know where they play exactly and from that you are then able to form one team. The players are all on the same page right now.”

Can they end their trophy drought? Matlama are Lesotho’s most successful club side with ten league titles and six Independence Cup titles. The LNIG Top 8 (admittedly only five years old) is the only trophy the club has not won. Tse Putsoa haven’t won a trophy since 2010 but if they can navigate their way past Kiick4Life then anything is possible.

Prediction: Quarterfinalists

Kick4Life
Background: Kick4Life are making their second appearance in the tournament after reaching the semi-finals in their debut last season. Leslie Notši’s side meet Matlama in a clash of two of 2018’s in-form teams. Kick4Life are fifth in the league and Tse Putsoa are third, and both want a trophy.

League form in 2018
Kick4Life

Matlama
18/02
LCS
0-1

18/02
Likhopo
0-1
10/02
Lioli
1-1

10/02
Sky Battalion
2-0
04/02
Likhopo
1-0

03/02
Linare
1-1
27/01
Sky Battalion
2-0

28/01
Liphakoe
3-1
21/01
Majantja
1-1

21/01
LDF
1-0
14/01
Sefotha-fotha
1-1

14/01
Lioli
0-0
03/12
Linare
3-0

03/12
Bantu
2-4
25/11
Liphakoe
2-1

26/11
Majantja
2-1

Can they win their first trophy? Kick4Life are looking for trophy success to certify their meteoric rise to the upper echelons of Lesotho football. When the LNIG Top 8 was launched in 2014 Kick4Life were still playing in the first division. Today they are genuine contenders to win it all.

It has been a remarkable rise and they are a dark-horse for the trophy. Kick4Life are led by the tournament’s best coach, Leslie Notši, and now boast a host of Likuena internationals. This is a well-drilled outfit that can control games and squeeze the life out of opponents. In the quarterfinals against Matlama where the tie is over two legs the advantage is firmly with Kick4Life.

Thabo Masualle (right) is part of Kick4Life's
crew of Lesotho internationals...
The question mark hangs over the once-off semi-final and final rounds where firepower and moments of brilliance begin to rule the day. It will be fascinating to see how Kick4Life fare this year, and to see how close they are to winning the first trophy in club history.

Prediction: Semi-finalists

Sky Battalion v Bantu
Sky Battalion
Background: Sky Battalion are making their debut in the competition and are not expected to last long. They face tournament favourites Bantu and haven’t a game all season.

Prediction: Quarterfinalists

Sky Battalion since November (league)
05/11/17
Sky Battalion
0-1
LCS
15/11/17
Kick4Life
1-1
Sky Battalion
19/11/17
Sky Battalion
0-2
LMPS
03/12/17
LDF
2-0
Sky Battalion
17/12/17
Sefotha-fotha
1-0
Sky Battalion
27/01/18
Sky Battalion
0-2
Kick4Life
04/02/18
Majantja
0-0
Sky Battalion
10/02/18
Sky Battalion
0-2
Matlama
17/02/18
Liphakoe
1-0
Sky Battalion

Bantu
Litšepe Marabe and Bantu are out for more trophy success
Background: Bantu go into Sunday’s quarterfinal first leg against Sky Battalion having arrived back in the country on Thursday night from a draining CAF Champions League trip to Swaziland. Fatigue, however, is the only worry for A Matšo Matebele in this tie. The Mafeteng giants had the luck of the draw.

Can they do the treble? Bantu have already won the Independence Cup and they head into the LNIG Top 8 as favourites. Their quarterfinal tie is by far the easiest amongst the tournament’s contenders. Bantu’s confidence is also sky-high. Since the start of 2017 Bantu have played 35 matches in all competitions – 28 in the league, three in the 2017 LNIG Top 8, two in the Independence Cup and two in the Champions League.

In those 35 matches A Matšo Matebele have only lost three times – an LNIG Top 8 semi-final loss to Lioli last season (4-2), a league loss to Kick4Life in December (1-0) and the recent 3-1 Champions League defeat to Mbabane Swallows.

With Lioli still adjusting to life under Ramorebodi, Kick4Life and Matlama yet to prove their trophy-winning credentials and LCS inconsistent this season, it is difficult to see which team has the firepower to overcome Bantu.

Prediction: Winners

LDF v LCS
LDF
Background: LDF face LCS looking to avenge last year’s quarterfinal loss to Masheshena.
Sohle-Sohle haven’t won a trophy since the 2008 Buddie Top 4. It is the longest drought in the club’s illustrious history.

Prediction: Quarterfinalists

LCS
Can LCS return to the winners' podium?
Background: LCS suffered the heartbreak of losing to Lioli in the last two LNIG Top 8 finals, 1-0 in 2016 and 4-3 last year. Like their rivals LDF, Masheshena are no longer the juggernaut they once were. LCS haven’t won silverware since the 2011/12 league title. Still, after going so close the last two times, Masheshena will be praying 2018 is finally their year in the LNIG Top 8.

Prediction: Semi-finalists

LNIG Top 8 quarterfinal first legs:
Saturday
Maputsoe DIFA Ground
Lioli v LMPS (13:00)
Matlama v Kick4Life (15:00)

Sunday
LCS Ground
Sky Battalion v Bantu (13:00)
LDF v LCS (15:30)