The Nigerian Professional Football League second half of the season returned last weekend with a bang. There were some surprising results notably FC Ifeanyi Ubah’s 0-3 bashing of Shooting Stars despite finishing the game with ten men.
With Matchday 20 now history, all 20 clubs resume their quest for points this weekend with some mouthwatering fixtures in the offing including an Oriental Derby. Here is Ekine Moseph’s pick of 5 matches in the NPFL this weekend.
Abia Warriors Vs Rangers International
Games don’t come bigger than this, an Oriental Derby to hold at the Umuahia Township stadium in Abia State.
Abia Warriors faced a baptism of fire last weekend when they were handsomely beaten 3-0 in Bauchi by Wikki Tourists.
They won Rangers 1-2 on the opening Matchday of the season in Enugu and will hope to do a double over the reigning champions and also get their first win in the second stanza of the league.
Rangers who are yet to win away from home this season will see this fixture as a good opportunity to correct what seemed an anomaly at the time Abia Warriors shocked the Cathedral.
The flying Antelopes narrowly won 2-1 at home against Gombe United last time out and will hope for a positive result here to steer clear of relegation.
This fixture last season finished in an entertaining 2-2 draw with both sides settling for a point apiece.
Lobi Stars Vs Shooting Stars
Fresh from last weekend’s impressive result away in Akure against Sunshine Stars, Lobi Stars welcomes struggling 3SC to the Aper Aku stadium in Makurdi.
Solomon Ogbeide has hit the ground since his appointment as Technical Adviser of Lobi Stars and will aim to add more misery to beleaguered Shooting Stars.
Visitors, Shooting Stars of Ibadan go into this encounter on the back of that disappointing 0-3 home defeat by FC Ifeanyi Ubah with a resolution by management of the club to see the side not relegated to Nigeria’s second tier division, the Nigeria National League come the end of the 2016/2017 league season.
Shooting Stars are without a win on their travels this season and have lost their last three away matches. Under pressure Head coach, Fatai Amoo will hope for a repeat scoreline of the opening game of the season when Shooting Stars defeated Lobi Stars 2-0 at the Lekan Salami stadium in Ibadan. But can they do it?
Niger Tornadoes Vs MFM FC
Arguably one of the standout ties this weekend, Niger Tornadoes in 8th position entertain the side in 2nd, MFM FC with three points at stake.
Niger Tornadoes go into this game hoping to put last weekend’s disappointing 1-0 defeat in Kano behind them. Abubakar Bala did attribute the defeat by Kano Pillars to a lack of match sharpness but is his now ready to face a wounded and depleted MFM FC?
Stephen Odey and Sikiru Olatunbosun will be missing for MFM FC as both players are with the Super Eagles squad in Ajaccio, France hoping to make their national team debuts when Nigeria play friendly matches against Corsica (Friday) and Togo days later.
MFM FC Technical Adviser, Fidelis Ilechukwu will have to dig into his squad to find suitable replacements to avoid his side falling further behind Plateau United at the top of the table.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two sides in the NPFL, with the visitors having one 2 at home and lost one.
FC Ifeanyi Ubah Vs Kano Pillars
Many NPFL followers will remember the incidents that followed this fixture on Matchday one which led to the games abandonment and Pillars being awarded three points and three goals, well they meet again but this time in Anambra.
Inform FC Ifeanyi Ubah will put their six-match unbeaten run on the line against stuttering Kano Pillars.
Despite having a slow start to the season, FC Ifeanyi Ubah have found their rhythm over the past few weeks and are slowly closing the gap on the sides above them in the table with big money signing Godwin Obaje hitting form. Ghanaian head coach, Yaw Preko will hope his side continue their near flawless home record when Pillars comes to town.
Kano Pillars on the other hand, ended a four-match losing streak last weekend under interim coach Ibrahim Musa.
Like nine other clubs in the NPFL, Sai masu gida are without an away win all season and if they harbour any hopes of finishing in the top-3 positions in the league come the end of the season, these are the sort of games they should be getting positive results from.
Plateau United Vs Remo Stars
Its top versus bottom this weekend in the NPFL as league-leaders Plateau United play host to the side in the bottom of the table Remo Stars FC.
Winless in their last four matches in the league, struggling Remo Stars will hope to cause an upset in Jos putting and end to that losing streak. The sky blue are currently looking like a side who will be engaged in a survival battle at the moment and a tie against title-chasing Plateau United isn’t what the doctor might have recommended.
Plateau United’s Kennedy Boboye will see this fixture as one which his side should increase their points tally without any disrespect to the visitors.
Plateau United are undefeated in 10 league matches played at home this season and have scored the most of their 28 goals at home – 22.