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Rollers, Galaxy in continental battles

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Reigning domestic champions, Township Rollers will tomorrow afternoon (February 10) enter the battle zone that is continental club football, facing Sudanese giants Al-Merrikh at the National Stadium in a CAF Champions League preliminary round match.

On the other hand, last season’s cup winners Jwaneng Galaxy reportedly arrived safely in Maputo, Mozambique on February 7, where the Stars are due to play Costa do Sol, also tomorrow (February 10).

Over the years, Botswana club football has struggled to assert itself on the continental scene and the two country representatives will enter the weekend action as underdogs.

That should only spur Rollers and Galaxy to seek to change this historic anomaly and engrave a new chapter for the local game on the continent.

Rollers have had a good season thus far, qualifying for the final of the Mascom Top 8 where they are due to face Orapa United on March 3, and surging to the top of the log with a good return of 40 points from 17 games.

But having won their first eight league games on the trot, Popa have generally looked less convincing in the games since. 

Serbian coach Nikola Kavazovic will have to galvanise his men to be at their best if they are to get past their highly decorated opponents.

Al-Merrikh have won the Sudanese title 16 times and the Sudan Cup 14 times, and made the semifinals of the Champions League in 2015, having reached the semis of the Confederation Cup just two years before.

But with Rollers having a squad teeming with experienced players who have played at national team level, and with a fully packed National Stadium expected to be spurring them on, an upset could be on the cards.

Ofentse Nato, captain Maano Ditshupo and Ugandan midfield anchor Ivan Ntege are quite capable of winning the midfield battle for Rollers, with Lemponye Tshireletso and Edwin Moalosi also gifted enough to take the game to the visitors.

The Sudanese side was scheduled to arrive in Gaborone yesterday, and due to have training sessions at the Rollers training ground in Tlokweng and at the National Stadium.

The Blues have branded their old team bus with the Al-Merrikh logo, and booked the visitors at a five star resort in Gaborone, as a means of extending courtesy to their guests.

On the other hand, Costa Do Sol, although one of the preeminent sides in Mozambican club football, have not won their domestic title, the Moçambola since 2007.

They also have tended to be eliminated in the first or second round of CAF club competition, although they have once reached the group stage of the Champions League back in 2002.

Costa finished second in the league in 2017, while winning the domestic cup, the Taça de Moçambique, earning a slot in the Confederation Cup.

Galaxy failed to reach this season’s edition of the Mascom Top 8, but were far from disgraced in an aggregate 3-3 away goals rule elimination by Rollers.

Having made slow start to their league campaign, Galaxy have been on a good run of five league wins in a row, and are now serious title contenders, just six points behind Popa but with a game in hand.

In Maputo they will look to the experience of Boitumelo Mafoko at the back and Terrance Mandaza in attack, as well as the youthful exuberance of the exciting Thero Setsile. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Pako Lebanna

Location : GABORONE

Event : CAF Champions League

Date : Feb 08 Thu,2018

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