By Aniekeme Unyah
After Wednesday’s rescheduled matches, the Nigeria Professional Football League returns across different match centers. Sunday’s fixtures will mark the start of the second half of the season — and arguably, the pick of this weekend’s NPFL action will take place in Umuahia, with Abia Warriors hosting Enyimba in the Abia derby. While Plateau United will be looking to keep the pressure on leaders Lobi Stars, Nasarawa United will be aiming for a win against fellow bottom four side Jigawa Golden Stars.
With all 20 clubs set to be involved in action this weekend, we take a look at how results in different centers would affect the standings.
Abia Warriors vs Enyimba
The two Abia teams take to the pitch again just seven days after meeting in Aba, where goals from Austin Oladapo and Stanley Dimgba handed Enyimba a 2-1 win over Emmanuel Deutsche’s side. Warriors, who sit 12th in the table — though level on points with 11th-placed Enyimba — will be looking to get back to winning ways at School Road. Enyimba, in contrast, will be aiming to extend their winning streak to four games in the league and five in all competitions. Despite a disappointing start to the season, the nine-time Nigerian champions are only 11 only off the pace — and they have four games in hand.
Wikki Tourists vs Lobi Stars
Wikki Tourists started the season brilliantly, but they’ve now dropped to 15th position after winning just one of their last 13 games. The reshuffle in their technical team has so far yielded very little in terms of results. Usman Abd’allah’s men will be looking to end a two-game losing run and a four-match winless streak when they clash with Lobi Stars, who beat them 2-1 in the reverse fixture.
Lobi Stars, who have earned 35 points, will head into the tie hoping to consolidate their grip on top spot. Gbenga Ogunbote’s side are only two points clear of second-placed Plateau United and if they lose, they could be overtaken by Abdul Maikaba’s side, who host Dakkada.
Kano Pillars vs MFM
Kano Pillars currently occupy the 10th position after taking 24 points from 17 matches. They will be looking to move up the log with a win against MFM at the Sani Abacha Stadium on Sunday. However, victory against the Lagos club will not come cheap. MFM thrashed Pillars 3-1 in the reverse fixture just a week ago.
MFM, who sit eighth on the log, will surely fancy their chances of possibly climbing up to sixth position on the table with a win.
Nasarawa United vs Jigawa Golden Stars
Sitting bottom of the table with 16 points from 18 matches, Nasarawa United are in dire need of points to stay up. The Lafia side clash with fellow bottom-four side Jigawa Golden Stars at Lafia Township Stadium. If Baba Ganaru’s side win the game, they’ll move up to 19th, provided Adamawa United lose at Heartland. Jigawa, on the other hand, can climb up to as high as 14th spot if they record a big win in the game and results elsewhere go their way.
Enugu Rangers vs Akwa United
Resurgent Rangers will be looking to defeat Akwa United — the side they forced to a goalless draw in Uyo last week. After exiting the CAF Confederation Cup, Salisu Yusuf’s team have switched focus to the NPFL. They’ll be aiming to record a second straight win — having beaten Jigawa Golden Stars 1-0 in a rescheduled game on Wednesday. A win or draw will extend the Flying Antelopes’ unbeaten run to 10. A win for Salisu Yusuf’s men could see them move two places to 14th position.
Akwa United, who have not hidden their title ambitions, are eyeing a “good result” against the Enugu club, according to assistant coach Abasiakan Windy. The Promise Keepers, one of the best travellers this season, could move up to fourth if they record victory on Sunday.
Kwara United vs Rivers United
Kwara United have gathered a total of 17 points from a possible 27 playing in Ilorin this season. That record should not not scare title-chasing Rivers United, who will head into the tie with the mission of leapfrogging both Lobi and Plateau to the summit.
A bit difficult to predict the possible outcome of this game, as Kwara have either been here nor there this season.
FC Ifeanyi Ubah vs Sunshine Stars
Ifeanyi Ubah has been of the under-achievers in the first of games this season. They currently occupy 13th position on the log but will be hoping to climb with all three points against Akure based Sunshine Stars.
Meanwhile, Sunshine stars with title ambition in the heads should be pushing for a win in Nnewi. They’ve so far gathered nine points away from home and will fancy their chance of breaking into the top three with three points on Sunday.
Heartland vs Adamawa United
Adamawa United — one of only two sides that are yet to pick up any points away from home in the current campaign — travel to Okigwe to play ninth-placed Heartland, who have amassed 25 points from 19 matches . Last Sunday, the Damaturu club beat the Naze Millionaires 1-0.
With a very poor goal difference, the second bottom side have no chance of moving out of the drop zone on Sunday.
Heartland, who have taken nine points from their last four home games, are favoured to claim all three points.
Plateau United vs Dakkada FC
Electric atmosphere is expected in Jos as leaders Plateau United host stubborn newcomers Dakkada. Both sides played out a goalless draw in Uyo last weekend, after goalkeeper Chinedu Anozie denied Caleb Esu’s side on many occasions.
With Lobi traveling to a desperate Wikki side, coach Abdu Maikaba and his boys know they can return to the summit with a win. But they’re also aware that Dakkada are the league’s best travellers this season, and so will approach the game with caution.
Dakkada have gathered a total of 11 points on the road so far this season. Esu’s team, who are placed fifth after gathering 30 points from 20 matches, are expected to give the second-placed team a good fight on Sunday.
Warri Wolves vs Katsina United
Wolves have found themselves in the bottom four after taking just 20 points from 18 matches. From now till the end of the season, The seasiders will avoid dropping points at home — and would do all they can to take all three points from the fixture.
Placed 17th, Wolves have taken only three points from their last five matches and they hold one of the poorest home records this season, but Katsina United have struggled away from home all season. If Wolves win and Jigawa Golden Stars fail to grab victory at Nasarawa United, they’ll climb out of the relegation zone. A win for Katsina United — who beat Wolves 2-1 a week ago — will help the northwest side close in on the top three.
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