The return of the P1 million soccer-fest

Botswana’s most lucrative cup competition will make its eagerly anticipated return this weekend. Last season’s top eight clubs will battle for a place in the semi-final and eventually the final. The first leg encounters of the quarterfinals will take place on four consecutive days starting from Saturday.

Ecco vs. GU (November 2 – Francistown Stadium –- 3pm kickoff)
The defending champions will face a tricky away tie against the 2012 finalists at the Francistown Stadium. Moyagoleele begins their title defence against a side that has shown that they can be dangerous if underestimated. The Francistown outfit enjoyed an impressive run to the final during the first edition of the tournament where Township Rollers defeated them.
Both sides are currently placed in mid-table positions in the league and the cup game will give both sides a chance to revive their respective campaigns. GU have earned the tag of ‘cup kings’ in recent seasons after claiming the Coke Cup and the Mascom Top 8 in the past two years. Their cup form in the past two seasons suggests that they normally raise their game during knockout tournaments.
The defending champions face a daunting task of overcoming a club that is still hurt from their early exit in last season’s competition. The 2007 league champions will not have a burden of expectation like their rivals and that could sway the match in their favour according to analysts.

Nico United vs Gunners (November 3 – Selibe Phikwe Stadium –– 3pm kickoff)
Gunners will be making their maiden appearance in the competition since its inception in 2012. Odirile Matlhaku’s side has been on a downward spiral in recent weeks; they are currently three points away from the bottom of the league. The alarming slump in form has led many to believe that Matlhaku is facing a race against time to preserve his place as Gunners’ coach.
Their opponents have enjoyed a better start to the season compared to the Lobatse side. Majombolo are aiming to win silverware this season;they have arguably the best young players in their ranks.
Gift Moyo and Topo Piet will pose a threat to their opponents, however, Gunners are also armed with attacking talent such as Monageng Thaele and Mponang Mponang , who have  have shown that they are capable of saving their best form for cup competitions in recent years.
They won the 2011 Coke Cup and last year they won the Joy Foundation pre- season tournament and they were the beaten finalists in this year’s Kabelano Charity Cup. Both sides have the potential to progress further and they will surely serve up an entertaining clash.

Chiefs vs. Rollers (November 4 – National Stadium – 7pm kickoff)
Arguably the biggest clash of the semi final stage, it will feature fierce rivals Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Township Rollers next Monday. The clubs will lock horns again after the clubs’ league fixture in which Rollers prevailed with a 2-1 win. The match will present Magosi with an opportunity to exert revenge on a side that derailed their seven match-winning streaks, ending their unbeaten start to the new season.
An inevitable fact is that one of the two local giants will face an early exit from the competition. Dragojlo Stanojlovic’s side still views the Mascom Top 8 as the missing piece in their array of silverware in recent seasons but their opponents will be equally eager to progress in the competition and possibly claim the trophy for the second time in three years.
This will set the stage for an entertaining match as both sides will surely be irked by the possibility of an early exit, and a loss to their bitter rivals.

BDF XI vs. BMC (November 5 – SSKB Stadium – 4pm kickoff)
The match will be a repeat of last season’s quarterfinal tie in which BDF XI eliminated their Lobatse based opponents. Matebele were the surprise package of the tournament last season as they also eliminated pre tournament favourites Chiefs and progressed to the final where GU beat them 2-1.
This season the club’s players have vowed to end their trophy drought which stretches back to 2004. Last season’s runners up will come up against a side equally determined to stamp their authority in the competition. BMC have been restored to league and cup action after a brief suspension; the club has even promised their players half of the prize money if they win the competition. Both clubs will be eager to fulfil their personal targets; A competitive game awaits.