We will treat it as just another game – Harrison
If ever there was a clash befitting the ‘biggest game of the season’ tag local football fans should look no further than the upcoming league clash between Township Rollers and Mochudi Centre Chiefs which is already the country’s most eagerly anticipated clash given their boardroom battles and verbal shots from both sides that have dominated headlines for over a month.
The top of the table clash will take place on Saturday at the National Stadium at 8pm. Rollers currently lead their rivals with four points, a win for Chiefs would see them move within a point of Popa while a win for Mark Harrison’s troops would almost certainly kill off Magosi’s title chances with only three games to go after the game.
Boasting a better head to head record this season, Rollers will go into the game as the firm favourites. Games between the local giants this season, including one league game and two cup games, have produced 11 goals with Rollers winning all three encounters.
Despite Popa’s recent dominance over Chiefs, Harrison has stated that his squad is still hungry for maximum points and will not be complacent.
“We will treat this as just another game, we do not have any special preparations for it because it is a must win game like all the other games. We want to win and that would take us one step closer to achieving our objective of winning the league. I expect the game to be high octane because both teams want to collect three points. It will be competitive. I do not expect our good record against them to make us take this game lightly, complacency will not come in at this stage of the season,” Harrison told Gazette Sport.
The last time Chiefs recorded a victory over Rollers was in January last year through a solitary goal from Lemponye Tshireletso as Chiefs went on to win the league four months later. The arrival of Harrison has since galvanized Popa as their league position suggests that they are close to dethroning Chiefs as the league champions.
In individual dual sense, Rollers and Chiefs stars Segolame Boy and Tshireletso are currently locked as the joint top scorers in the league with 14 goals apiece. However, it will take more than the talismanic figures already mentioned to win the game.
The rivals like to deploy identical 4-5-1 systems and their most productive departments in terms of goals are their midfield groups. Although Rollers have scored 10 more goals than Chiefs this year, the latter’s midfield has proved to be stronger in terms of goal production.
Chiefs’ midfield has a collective tally of 38 goals with attacking midfielders Tshireletso (14 goals) and Tendayi Nyumasi (11 goals) leading the way, they also have Ayanda Molefhe’s five goal tally supplementing them. As a collective, Rollers’ midfield has produced 33 goals with Boy leading his midfield mates with 14 goals. Winning the midfield battle could decide the game for any of the local giants.
Both clubs’ domination of the local league in terms of titles won in recent years suggests that they are the Botswana’s biggest clubs. The duo has formed a ‘two team pendulum’ that has seen them exchange league titles in the last six years, with both teams claiming three titles apiece.
League championships in the last six years
Head to head league meetings in the last three seasons
Rollers 2-1 Chiefs
Chiefs 0-0 Rollers
Rollers 1-0 Chiefs
Chiefs 1-0 Rollers
Rollers 3-2 Chiefs
Predictions: What the experts expect
Fabian Zulu (analyst): “It is not going to be an entertaining match, it will be a grudge match because of the animosity between the teams. It is going to be a physical and aggressive game. Chiefs have done well against the so called smaller teams but they always struggle in big games, last month they failed to penetrate Rollers’ defence. Rollers are always attack minded and they have a lot of strength in character and I think they will win 1-0.”
Tumo Mpatane (Gabz FM): “3-1 in favour of Rollers. They have an upper hand going into the game, it will be tightly contested but Chiefs have not been convincing. The first half will be tight but Rollers’ strength in depth can help change the game in the second half. The roles of Lesego Galenamotlhale and my player of the season Maano Ditshupo will be vital in this game.”
Mosimanegape Tshoswane (Weekend Post): “It is a tight call, I see a draw in this match. 1-1.”
Duncan Kgangkenna (Sunday Standard): “The game will not disappoint, rollers has an upper hand looking at the recent encounters between the two giants but it doesn’t close chiefs out. Since both teams are in a better position to win the league good a performance is expected. 2- 1 in favour of Rollers and the winner of the match will crawl over to win the championship.”