Rollers’ finest hour

21st February 2018
Mapalastina headcoach, Nikola Kavazovic Source:The Midweek Sun

BY KABELO GADISE BTC Premiership reigning champions Township Rollers face Sudanese giants El-Merrikh tonight at the El-Merrikh Stadium in the Sudanese capital Omdurman. Popa go into the CAF champion’s league game leading El-Merrikh 3-0 after a superb first leg game played in Gaborone a fortnight ago. However, the marauding Popa are set to face the unexpected in Omdurman when they enter 43 000 seater Al-Merrikh stadium. Proverbial sparks are bound to fly, as both teams will be seeking to advance to the next stage of the lucrative CAF African championship. The MmaMasire based outfit needs to match their rivals pound for pound. Nonetheless El- Merrikh is expected to mount pressure into the Rollers defense where cracks might surface.

The desperate Sudanese outfit will need to mount an end-to-end attack earlier in the game. However, mind games have already played out between the two sides and they will continuously roll until the last whistle. Logistical issues are said to have ensued with the hapless Popa at the receiving end. Nevertheless, Rollers have been on a great form and they will need both mental strength and nerves of steel to beat their rivals in a hostile and menacing environment. Lately, outspoken Mapalastina headcoach Nikola Kavazovic made bold statement after declaring his charges are slowly becoming African giants following their watershed 3-0 victory over the highly rated Sudanese side. Thus far, the spirit of fair play and hospitality seem to have flown out the window in Sudan and Popa needs to rise to the occasion outside their comfort zone.

The game is expected to be played under floodlights, which brings up the risk of the notorious laser beams being used against the unsuspecting Popa players, as it is a usual norm in both North and East Africa. Moreover, a combination of hostile match officials and unfair treatment from the hosting team is always on the cards in African states. Since their arrival on Monday, reports are that Popa have struggled to find a suitable training ground and this treatment is expected to prevail until the last whistle tonight (Wednesday). Tactically popa look stronger even though some feel they will be a sandwiched and pressed hard by a desperate El-Merrikh, a team that allegedly missed almost six of their key players in the first leg. Mapalastina will once more need to highlight their tactical maturity by shutting the back door with their usual backline of Tshepho Motlhabankwe and Edwin Olerile playing as wing backs while Simisane Mathumo and Mosha Gaolaolwe will be sweeping clean in the central of defense.

El-Merrikh liable to fall short in applying their aerial tactics and taking advantage of their God given size advantage. Kavazovic will be expecting his midfield to give the opponent the first ball and capitalize on the second ball. Reliable winger Joel Mogorosi will have a busy day having to unpin defenders out of their position with his movements focusing on the wide parts of the field, while defenders will be chasing behind Mogorosi, spaces will open up for the deadly trio of Segolame Boy, Motsholetsi Sikele and Edwin Moalosi. Moalosi however, remains doubtful to play due to a reported illness. Lemponye Tshireletso will be expected to rise to the occasion. El-Merrikh once the regulars of the CAF Champions League group stages now face what possibly looks as an early exit going into the second leg while Rollers sit on a healthy lead with the tide not possibly looking like turning around.

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