VPL team-by-team prospects

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Mikia Kalati

THE 2016/17 Vo­da­com Pre­mier League (VPL) soccer sea­son is now in full swing and af­ter two rounds of ac­tion-packed matches, Kick­4life is on top the ta­ble for the first time in their his­tory.

In this preview, the Le­sotho Times analy­ses the prospects of each of the league’s 14 teams. Li­oli: Tse Nala re­main the team to beat af­ter win­ning back to back ti­tles in the last two sea­sons.

Af­ter an open­ing 1-0 loss to LMPS, the Tey­ateya­neng-based out­fit bounced back with a 1-0 win over LDF on Satur­day to put the de­fence of their ti­tle back on track.

Changes to the tech­ni­cal team could play a big role in how Li­oli per­form this sea­son. Mosholu “Shoes” Mokhothu, who led the club to back to back league ti­tles, was forced to give up his po­si­tion af­ter fail­ing to meet the new re­quire­ment for pre­mier league club coaches to be hold­ers of a B coach­ing li­cense.

There has un­doubt­edly opened a big gap at the club as Mokhothu had a good un­der­stand­ing with the play­ers and un­der­stood the cul­ture of the club very well.

He has how­ever been re­placed by Hale­makale Mahlaha, who has been part of the Li­oli tech­ni­cal team and comes with an im­pres­sive cur­ricu­lum vi­tae. Mahlaha’s big chal­lenge will be to main­tain the stan­dards that were set by Mokhothu.

Star play­ers: Tšoanelo Koe­tle, Jerry Kamela and Tumelo Khut­lang

New sign­ings: Thapelo Tale and Setho Moshoeshoe

Pre­dic­tion: Based on the qual­ity Li­oli boasts in their squad, they re­main among the favourites for the league ti­tle.

Mat­lama: Tse Put­soa’s in­con­sis­tency in the open­ing two matches will cer­tainly worry their sup­port­ers as the club seeks to end their long tro­phy drought.

Just like Li­oli, the coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful side is blessed with qual­ity in all de­part­ments es­pe­cially af­ter the ar­rival of ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers such as Dyke Tšiu who was pre­vi­ously in Linare’s books.

A lot will also be ex­pected of head coach Moses Maliehe af­ter he led the club to sec­ond po­si­tion, los­ing the ti­tle on the last day of the 2015/16 sea­son to Li­oli.

He has had to re­in­force his squad es­pe­cially the de­fence where for­mer Sun­dawana de­fender Michael Mireku looks to be a longterm re­place­ment for for­mer cap­tain Nkau Lerotholi who joined LMPS.

The club will also ex­pect the duo of Jane Thaba-ntšo and Mote­bang Sera to con­tinue their ex­ploits of last sea­son which saw them score a com­bined 30 goals. For Tse Put­soa to win a his­toric 10th league ti­tle, Maliehe needs to en­sure har­mony among his play­ers which has not been the case in the open­ing matches as well as the pre-sea­son.

Star play­ers: Phafa Tšosane, Jane Thaba-ntšo and Mabuti Pot­loane.

New play­ers: Michael Mireku and Dyke Tšiu

Pre­dic­tion: Com­pe­ti­tion will be very stiff and but Tse Put­soa are likely to fin­ish in the top three.

LCS: The cor­rec­tional ser­vice side have made a slow start to the new cam­paign when so much was ex­pected af­ter they won the pre-sea­son Al­liance Win­ter Chal­lenge.

Mashesh­ena suf­fered a sur­prise 1-0 de­feat away to Liphakoe in their open­ing fix­ture be­fore re­cov­er­ing from a goal down to beat Linare in their sec­ond match.

The Mpitsa Marai-men­tored side will have to im­prove from their open­ing games if they are to com­pete for the ti­tle.

LCS were in the ti­tle race for much of last sea­son but failed to sus­tain their chal­lenge along­side Li­oli and Mat­lama. Con­sis­tency is some­thing their coach must work on be­cause they have a bal­anced team good enough to com­pete for hon­ours.

Key play­ers: Thabo Seakhoa, Daniel Jousse and Li­eta Lehloka.

New play­ers: Le­bo­neng Mo­qe­cho and Hopolang Mohlalefi.

Pre­dic­tion: The prob­lem with LCS is lack of con­sis­tency which has seen them drop points against Liphakoe in the open­ing match. While this could haunt them, they are likely to be among the top five teams.

Sun­dawana: The Butha-buthe side owned by pop­u­lar tra­di­tional healer Thato “Sun­dawana” Nkone have had a slow start to the 2016/17 sea­son get­ting just a point from their first two matches.

The de­par­ture of their for­mer head coach Bob Mafoso — now as­sis­tant coach at Bantu — ap­pears to have left a void in the tech­ni­cal depart­ment af­ter he led the team to fourth place last sea­son.

The club has also lost two of their Ghana­ian-born play­ers Michael Mireku and Sam­son Yapipi who joined Mat­lama.

On the ba­sis of their per­for­mances so far, it will take some­thing spe­cial for them to be as good as they were in the pre­vi­ous cam­paign where at one stage they reg­is­tered five back to back vic­to­ries.

Star play­ers: Mo­jalefa Tšoeu and Raboama Koloti

New play­ers: Abekah Fred­er­ick

Pre­dic­tion: The rocky start to the new sea­son could mean Sun­dawana may not re­peat last sea­son’s fourth place fin­ish. Their best could be a place among the top eight teams es­pe­cially af­ter the changes to their squad. Em­manuel Ku­di­abo and

Likhopo: De­spite their po­ten­tial, the Red Army failed to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions es­pe­cially hav­ing topped the ta­ble at one stage last sea­son, only to end up in sev­enth po­si­tion.

While the chop­ping and chang­ing of coaches has not done the team any favours, the ap­point­ment of for­mer Likuena cap­tain Tšepo Hlo­jeng as head coach has how­ever brought hope the team will be more com­pet­i­tive and stable com­pared to last sea­son. But Hlo­jeng has to start from scratch af­ter Likhopo parted ways with some of the longserv­ing play­ers in­clud­ing Bokang Mothoana and Nyakhane Nyakhane. They are hav­ing to rely on young play­ers.

The club have a moun­tain to climb af­ter los­ing their open­ing two matches.

Star play­ers: Lehlomela Ram­a­bele and Thabo Mon­gali

New play­ers: Mohloka Lehlokoanyane and Thaane Mokoena

Pre­dic­tion: All eyes will be on Hlo­jeng to see if he can help his team that last won the league ti­tle when he was still play­ing for them. Lack of depth in their squad could work against him and he might have to con­tend with a place among the top six.

Kick­4life: The Les­lie Notši-coached side has been the most in-form team this sea­son, beat­ing Likhopo 2-0 be­fore thrash­ing rook­ies Butha Buthe War­riors 5-0.

The for­mer Likuena coach is highly ex­pe­ri­enced and some of his best at­tributes are as­tutely man­ag­ing the dress­ing room and get­ting the best out of his play­ers. Kick­4life also boast a tal­ented group of play­ers that ap­pear to be devel­op­ing in leaps and bounds. They have also added to their squad the likes of ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers Bokang Mothoana from Likhopo and Soarel Os­sal-okoko.

The club al­ready boasted the tal­ents of Fidel Ntoya and Thabo Ma­su­alle who are also sea­soned cam­paign­ers.

Star play­ers: Fidel Ntoya and Mo­rapeli Le­soetsa

New play­ers: Bokang Mothoana, Soarel Os­sal-okoko, Se­foli Ntoi.

Pre­dic­tion: If their form in the open­ing matches is any­thing to go by, Kick­4life could be the sur­prise pack­age in the race for tro­phies this sea­son.

Bantu: The Mafeteng-based side has looked a dif­fer­ent side to the one that was strug­gling to win matches last sea­son.

They have won their open­ing matches un­der new head coach James Ma­didi­lani and his as­sis­tant Bob Mafoso.

A Matšo Mate­bele have also made shrewd sign­ings like Moloisane Ra­masi­mong who has al­ready scored two goals in as many matches. The club also still have top play­ers in Litšepe Marabe and skip­per Thapelo Mokhehle who are ex­pected to play a big role in turn­ing the ta­bles af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign last sea­son.

The man­age­ment of the club has ini­ti­ated ac­tiv­i­ties to raise funds which could come in handy in mo­ti­vat­ing play­ers to go all the way and wres­tle the league ti­tle from Li­oli.

Star play­ers: Thapelo Mokhehle, Hlom­pho Kalake and Litšepe Marabe.

New play­ers: Moloisane Ra­masi­mong and Thabo Selisa

Pre­dic­tion: A Matšo Mate­bele have looked im­pres­sive un­der new coach Ma­didi­lani and ap­pear ready to bat­tle for the league ti­tle once again.

Ldf: The once pow­er­ful Sohle-sohle have failed to be the force they were in the 1990s and will need to dras­ti­cally im­prove to stand a chance of com­pet­ing for top hon­ours this sea­son.

The re­turn of le­gendary men­tor Motheo Mohapi mid­way through the pre­vi­ous cam­paign has given the club’s sup­port­ers hope LDF can be a force to be reck­oned with again.

How­ever, the club has once again failed to re­cruit top play­ers from around the coun­try like they used to do, and that could be their big­gest un­do­ing in their quest to bring back the glory days. LDF will once again de­pend on vet­er­ans such as Mo­jela Let­sie and Molefe Lekoekoe to grind out re­sults.

Stars play­ers: Melefe Lekoekoe and Mo­jela Let­sie.

Pre­dic­tion: The army side had a tough 2015/16 sea­son and were lucky to be among the top 8 teams in the end. Mohapi will surely con­tinue with the re­build­ing process that started last sea­son as he tries to as­sem­ble a squad that can com­pete for hon­ours again.

Since they don’t splash cash on new play­ers, it will likely take them some time to get the team at its best again.

LMPS: The po­lice side have made a dream start to the new cam­paign stun­ning Li­oli be­fore hold­ing Mat­lama to a 1-1 draw.

Simunye have also man­aged strengthen their squad with qual­ity play­ers over the past two sea­sons.

Nkau Lerotholi signed from Mat­lama last sea­son is lead­ing by ex­am­ple from the back. He has been joined by Ba­sia Makepe who re­turned from a loan spell at Li­oli.

The two cen­tre-backs are among the best lo­cally and will surely form a for­mi­da­ble de­fen­sive part­ner­ship. New coach Mos­ito Matela seems to have brought a pos­i­tive spirit to the LCS camp, and only time will tell if they will main­tain the stan­dards and fin­ish among the top teams.

Star play­ers: Nkau Lerotholi and Tefa Makhoane

New play­ers: Phan­tši Sekoloto and Ba­sia Makepe

Pre­dic­tion: LMPS could im­prove on last sea­son’s ninth po­si­tion if they can main­tain the stan­dards of their open­ing matches this sea­son.

Linare: Tse Tala have once again started badly. Their de­feats to rook­ies Sky Bat­tal­ion and LCS must be a worry af­ter they were in­volved in the rel­e­ga­tion dog­fight last sea­son.

This time around, the Hlotse-based side have added a few ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers to their squad and that sug­gests the Mot­latsi Shale-coached side could soon get it right.

Linare should get their house in or­der be­fore it is too late or else there are in for an- other tough sea­son fight­ing for sur­vival.

De­spite los­ing a num­ber of qual­ity play­ers over the years, Shale has man­aged to bring the likes of Tefo Maipato and Nyakhane Nyakhane who still have a lot to of­fer af­ter they were re­leased by Likhopo. There also boast a good goal­keeper in for­mer Likuena shot-stopper Kholuoe Pha­sumane.

New play­ers: Tefo Maipato Nyakhane Nyakhane

Star play­ers: Kholuoe Pha­sumane and Napo Sehloho

Pre­dic­tion: Shale is a very ex­pe­ri­enced man and knows how to win matches hav­ing helped Bantu end their long wait for the league ti­tle a few years ago. He needs to work his magic on Linare for them to con­quer their de­mons and at least fin­ish in the top eight. and

Liphakoe: The Quthing side were outstanding in their two matches shocking LCS 1-0 be­fore col­lect­ing an­other three points against Rovers. They have shown an ea­ger­ness to have a solid sea­son in the pre­mier league fol­low­ing their pro­mo­tion last sea­son.

They also have an ex­pe­ri­enced coach in for­mer Likuena striker Teele Ntšonyana who has been in charge of the club for a few sea­sons. The win over LCS could go a long way in mo­ti­vat­ing Liphakoe to con­tinue im­prov­ing de­spite the lack of big name play­ers in their ranks.

Stars play­ers: Mohau Ram­mo­neng, Neo Skosana and Tšepo Toloane

New play­ers: Bo­siu Ngatane and Le­tuka Ba­sia

Pre­dic­tion: A top eight fin­ish would be a bonus for Liphakoe in just their sec­ond sea­son in the top flight af­ter years in the dol­drums.

rovers: Like Liphakoe, the univer­sity side will be ey­ing a place among the top eight teams in the league hav­ing sur­vived rel­e­ga­tion in the late stages of last sea­son.

The club has made a num­ber of changes to their man­age­ment as well as the tech­ni­cal team and only time will tell if that is what the club needed to com­pete bet­ter this sea­son.back to back de­feats to Bantu and Liphakoe could worry the team which started well on their re­turn to the pre­mier league last sea­son.

Star play­ers: Maime Ra­paulina, Tše­ole Ran­thimo and Mot­lalepula Matli New play­ers: Pule Moloi Pre­dic­tion: Two losses in the open­ing matches in­di­cate an­other tough sea­son ahead for the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho side. They are likely to be in­volved in the rel­e­ga­tion dog­fight hav­ing made a num­ber of changes to their squad and the tech­ni­cal team.

SKY Bat­tal­ion: The pre­mier league rook­ies have been the sur­prise pack­ages so far with vic­to­ries over Linare and Sun­dawana re­spec­tively.

Bat­tal­ion is coached by for­mer Li­oli as­sis­tant coach Tha­bile Secker who has ac­quired ex­pe­ri­ence in win­ning a lot of tro­phies at Tse Nala. That ex­pe­ri­ence seems to have helped him set­tle quickly. They also have a num­ber of ex­cit­ing young­sters who are en­joy­ing play­ing on the coun­try’s big­gest stage.

Star play­ers: Bo­nang Mohapi and Tsotang Mokhothu

New play­ers: bang Malane

Pre­dic­tion: A bright start to life in the pre­mier league has given the club hope they will sur­vive the chop, but there is still a long way to go. They could sur­vive if they main­tain the stan­dards of their open­ing matches. The­jane The­jane and Tha-

Butha-buthe war­riors: Life has not been easy for the pre­mier league new­com­ers who have lost their two matches. That could be due to lack of ex­pe­ri­ence at this stage.

Coach Mot­latsi Thilinyane does have pre­mier league ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing men­tored the now de­funct Joy FC a few years ago. He could still find the go­ing tough due to lack of ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers in the team.

War­riors must be fear­less and stand their own against the pre­mier league big guns. Un­for­tu­nately that has not been the case with de­feats like the 5-0 drub­bing by Kick­4Life in their sec­ond match. Star play­ers: Tau Qo­bose Pre­dic­tion: Af­ter their 5-0 de­mo­li­tion at the hands of Kick­4life, the VPL new boys could be in for a long sea­son. They need to im­prove fast or they will make a swift re­turn to the first di­vi­sion at the end of the cam­paign.

Li­oli play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter win­ning the Vo­da­com Pre­mier League ti­tle last sea­son.

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