16 March 2017

Botswana: Rollers, Gunners Cross Swords

Gaborone — Plausibly the two most supported football teams in Botswana, Township Rollers and Extension Gunners on Saturday afternoon renew their rivalry in what could be an exhilarating BTC premiership match.

Popa host Mapantsula at the National Stadium in a 3:30pm kick-off looking to assert their position at the top of the log. But in Gunners they face a tricky side that on their day can pose a threat to any of the sides ahead of them in the log standings. The long-standing rivalry between the two crowd pullers should ensure an interesting sub plot of bragging rights being at stake.

The last time the two sides met last December 7, Lemponye Tshireletso first half brace handed Rollers a 2-0 win. This triggered an impressive run of 10 league victories in a row, Popa's best league run in recent seasons, propelling the Blues to being serious title contenders after a slow start to their premier league defence.

Gunners on the other hand had a characteristically good start to their season - their first loss only coming on Match Day Six against Orapa United - before inconsistency set in.

Daniel 'Chicco Dance' Nare's side are part of a group of seven teams located between position four and 10 on the log, separated by just four points.

These sides - Gunners, BDF XI, Black Forest, Security Systems, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, Police XI and Gaborone United all want to secure a top eight finish. The tight nature of the middle and upper mid table positions means that all the sides enter the weekend knowing that a 'snakes and ladders' free fall awaits any team that fails to win if the others pick points.

Having lost 1-0 to GU, succumbing to a late Akakulubelwa Mwabachi goal at the Lobatse Sports Complex last Sunday, Gunners will be motivated to avoid losing further ground.

On their day, the Peleng Glamour Boys can be exciting to watch, although they need to add greater attacking bite in the final third of the of the pitch and the manner with which they defended crosses over the weekend irked Nare.

Popa on the other hand, have enjoyed a good run of late; last weekend's 1-1 draw with Orapa United halted that run of 10 straight league wins which started on December 7 against Gunners stretching to the 4-0 win over Mahalapye Hotspurs last week Tuesday. Gunners tend to have high energy levels when facing the Blues, and as such current form could count for naught.

Mogomotsi 'Teenage' Mpote will want his Rollers side to close spaces their opponents could exploit. In recent cup losses to CNaPS Sport of Madagascar (CAF Champions League) and Orapa United (Mascom Top 8) Rollers looked good on the ball; but their off the ball movement was poor, their opponents only requiring a few chances to locate the Blues goal.

Another interesting fixture over the weekend will be played on Sunday, when Mochudi Centre Chiefs host their former coach Mike 'Dubula' Sithole's highflying Jwaneng Galaxy side. Second placed Galaxy will look to grab all the three points in order to pile pressure on Rollers at the top of the log.

After a poor end to 2016, Bongani Mafu's Chiefs side have lost just once in their eight league outings in the 2017 calendar year.

They were particularly impressive in their emphatic victories over Nico United (5-0), and Green Lovers (5-1). But off the field issues has disturbed their training regime, leading to five points being dropped in their past two fixtures, the loss to Police XI and last weekend's 1-1 draw with Black Forest.



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