LCS seek to defend Alliance Winter title

LCS seek to defend Alliance Winter title

MASERU – After months of waiting, Mpitsa Marai and his Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) charges will finally get a taste of live action when they defend their Alliance Winter Tournament this weekend at Setsoto Stadium.
‘Masheshena’ go into the four-team pre-season showdown as two-time defending champions after outclassing Matlama in last year’s final and conquering the 2016 edition.
This time around, LCS have been drawn to face ‘Tse Putsoa’ in the semi-finals and, if they progress, ‘Masheshena’ will go for a treble of Alliance crowns against the winner between Lioli and Swallows in Sunday’s final.

For Marai, the Alliance Winter Challenge is an opportunity to assess his side ahead of the 2018/19 Econet Premier League season which kicks off on September 8.
This weekend’s tournament is the fourth edition of a competition that has since its inception in 2015 has given the three Alliance sponsored Premiership teams – LCS, Matlama and Lioli – and one invitee – this year Swallows – the chance to gauge their strengths before diving into the league campaign.
This year will be no different, Marai said.

“The (Alliance) Winter Challenge is very important, we will get the chance to see our new players’ performance on the pitch,” he told thepost.
“We will also weigh ourselves,” Marai added.

“Through the Winter Challenge we will see where to improve. We are going to play big teams like Lioli and Matlama so it is safe to say it is not going to be a walk in the park. We will look at how we have built our team; even players who did not play last season will get a chance this weekend.”
The urgency around LCS has also increased after they flunked a top four league finish last season meaning they will miss October’s showpiece Independence Cup for only the third time in the last 12 years.

Indeed, once the country’s dominant side as they romped to four league titles in six seasons between 2007 and 2012, ‘Masheshena’ have now gone six years without touching a trophy.
Marai said LCS are determined to remedy last season’s mistakes and get back into title contention.
As a result, not only has pre-season training been particularly rigorous as Marai whips his team into shape, ‘Masheshena’ have also been busy head-hunting players to help their cause.
One area to fix is their striking department.

Last season LCS only scored 31 goals in 24 league games, the lowest total amongst the top six sides.
More firepower would perhaps help turn their draws into wins. Last season Marai’s side had seven stalemates, a total that was only surpassed by Majantja, Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LPMS) and Sefotha-fotha.

“This is our fourth week in preparations for the new season and we have five new players; their deals are not yet final, but I believe before the end of this week everything will be final,” Marai said.
“We want to maintain a 28-man squad, so if five players join and five players will be expected to leave, but for now, all decisions are not yet done.”
Marai said an injection of fresh blood is crucial if LCS are to achieve their season’s goals.

“New players are very important as they will help reinforce the team, the competition within the team and the performance will also change,” he explained.
“Our target for next season is to get into the top four. Last season we did not succeed due to internal challenges and we ended up in fifth place.”
Two players, however, will be unavailable for this weekend’s action although it will be for differing reasons.
Striker Mark Tahayim will miss out as he is still recovering from an injury.

Hopolang Mohlalefi, on the other hand, has been AWOL for four weeks as he tries to force a move to Lioli.
“(Mohlalefi) explained to me that he wants to join Lioli but the transfer is yet to be done,” Marai said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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