NPFL Matchday 12 Previews: Yobe Stars battle to halt Kano Pillars unbeaten run

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Sai Masu must find a way to repel their rampant hosts in Damaturu to keep their unbeaten record in one of the matches billed for the weekend

Lobi Stars vs Katsina United

This could be the defining moment for the Pride of Benue’s gradual movement to the top of the league table.

After two away wins against Enugu Rangers and Heartland and another road draw against MFM in Lagos, Solomon Ogbeide's men deserve a pat on the back and are favourites to mount the summit of the league table after weekend matchday fixtures.

They are up against Katsina United who are also an emerging force in the league in their second season in the topflight.

History favours the Chanji Boys over the Makurdi side as they were held to a goalless draw last season on the same pitch before Katsina United won the return leg 2-1 but it will hard for Lobi, on current form not to pick the maximum points before their fans.

Akwa United vs Nasarawa United

The Promise Keepers are feeling the heat of playing in the continent as they are currently out of top five, albeit with two outstanding games at hand.

However, they will be eager to return to winning ways on Monday against the Solid Miners after their away loss to Al Ittihad in the Caf Confederation Cup first round, first leg tie on Wednesday.

Abdu Maikaba's men started the season brightly but have been held back in recent matches especially their consecutive defeats to MFM and Lobi Stars in games they were expected to pick points.

They are favourites to nick the maximum points against troubled Kabiru Dogo's team whose only goal thus far in Uyo since 2015 was recorded last season in their 2-1 defeat. It will no doubt be a tough match but Akwa United are in dire need of a win so that they don’t gradually slip out of the contenders for the league titles. 


Wikki Tourists vs Rivers United

The Giant Elephants are in a win or burst situation against the Pride of Rivers in Jos. They are currently in the relegation zone with 13 points from 11 games.

They won’t have their much-sought home win on a platter of gold with Stanley Eguma's men on three-game unbeaten run and are eyeing a place among the top three with a surprise win at the Zaria Road Stadium.

The Bauchi side have been unlucky in their last three matches since their 4-0 away loss to Akwa United in Uyo. They should have added at least five points to their present points’ haul and not a solitary point they garnered in the same set of matches.

Bala Nikyu men’s preparation for the tie has experienced a hitch with an injury to their enterprising midfielder, Shammah Tanze who has been ruled out of the tie to injury he sustained on Friday during training.


Go Round vs Sunshine Stars

Ngozi Elechi's boys will hosts the Owena Whales for the first time in their history on Sunday at the Krisdera Hotel Stadium, Omoku and are in a must-win situation if they are to ease their ways out of the relegation zone.

They are 19th in the league table with 10 points from 10 games and they will be encouraged by their above average showing against Kano Pillars even though they lost 2-0. It will be a herculean task breaking down Sunshine Stars under Duke Udi.

They are also not without their own problems including the three points’ deduction by the League Management Company from their current accumulated points for the unruly behaviour of their fans in their home draw with Sai Masu Gida.

And they will be in search of a positive result against Go Round to further lift them above the drop zone. They are occupying 15th spot with 13 points from 11 games presently in the league table.


Kwara United vs El Kanemi Warriors

The three-match ultimatum given to John Obuh led technical crew of the Harmony Boys began in their road loss to Abia Warriors in a match they dominated but still suffered defeat because of their poor marksmanship.

The management of the Ilorin side has not uttered any statement publicly either supporting Obuh or not but the result against the Borno Army will resolve lots of issues including the future of the former Flying Eagles’ boss and his assistant coaches.

Kwara United have won their last two fixtures against Imama Amapakabo's men in 2013 and 2015 when they spent cameo periods in the topflight.

The results posted by El Kanemi have really been hard to believe since the beginning of the season with the kind of pre-season activities they embarked upon and the funfair with which Amapakabo was appointed as coach of the side.

The management board of the team led by Mohammed Zannah Kakaje has shown so much patience to the technical crew and another defeat in Ilorin should get the board talking regarding the future of the club that has managed to remain in the elite division for over four seasons now. They are presently 18th in the league table with 12 points from 11 games after their disappointing goalless draw at home to Niger Tornadoes in their last game.


FC Ifeanyiubah vs Abia Warriors

There are two Oriental derbies to be decided in the topflight this weekend and one of such holds in Nnewi where the Anambra Warriors will host the Warriors in a tie that has produced more drawn games than win. The last five encounters between both teams have ended in draws since 2015 and last season, Abia Warriors were at their best snatching a 2-2 draw at the Ifeanyi Ubah Stadium.

FC ifeanyiubah who are led by Isa Ladan Bosso will be desperate to secure their first win over their illustrious opponents on Sunday after their famous draw in Port Harcourt against Rivers United last week as they are aware only a point separates them from the relegation zone even though they are 11th in the league table with 14 points. It is also the same for Abia Warriors who could be in the drop zone at the end of the weekend matches if they are beaten despite being 10th presently with 14 points from 11 games also.


MFM vs Heartland

The Olukoya Boys have been unable to blend the fusion of premier league matches with their campaign in the Caf Champions League as they are only out of the relegation by goals difference. Their undoing is their inability to find able replacement for Stephen Odey who scored massive 18 goals for them in the league last season before joining FC Zurich of Switzerland in August last year. They have also recruited players without topflight experience for their debut appearance in Africa and it has affected their outing in both competitions. They were held to a goalless draw in their last home game against Lobi Stars in the league and are walking a tight rope in the Caf Champions League after managing a 2-1 home win against MC Algier of Algeria in the competition’s first round, first leg tie.

They must redeem their image against the Naze Millionaires who are also not doing well in the league and were even beaten 1-0 at their adopted home in Nnewi by Lobi Stars last weekend. The Ramson Madu led technical crew is presently on hot seat and a defeat in Lagos could further fuel recent calls for his replacement. Heartland are also facing similar problem as the Fidelis Ilechukwu men in the area of players’ recruitment. Besides Julius Ubido, Macmarcel Obioha, Kingsley Salami and Ebele Obi other players are rookies and are only in their first season in the premier league.

This fixture should be a close contest with the home team edging it narrowly.


Niger Tornadoes-Plateau United

Coach Kennedy Boboye has turned the reigning league champions into a club that is very difficult to beat and it won’t be any surprise if they grab a draw against the Ikon Allah Boys on Sunday in Minna. They are still smarting from their 4-2 away loss to Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia in the Caf Champions League first round; first leg fixture and their response against Tornadoes at the Bako Kotangora Stadium will give a hint as to their readiness for the crunchy second leg next week against the North Africans.

Tornadoes are having their groove back gradually after the ouster of former coach, Erasmus Onuh as his replacement; Hamza Abara has secured four points from possible six in the two games he has handled thus far. It will be a tough duel against the Peace Boys in their quest to secure consecutive home win for the first time this season. The last season’s confrontation ended in controversial 1-0 home win in Lokoja and Tornadoes who are presently 14th in the league table with 13 points will gladly take the same result if offered on a platter.

Plateau United are third in the league table with 18 points despite having two games at hand and they must secure their first draw of the season at least in Minna if they are to remain within the touching distance of Kano Pillars and Lobi Stars.


Yobe Desert Stars-Kano Pillars

There was initial anxiety regarding where the league match will be held this weekend as Yobe Desert Stars played their last home match against El Kanemi Warriors in Kano’s Sani Abacha Stadium which is the home ground of Sai Masu Gida but the League Management Company laid such fears to rest with the approval granted to the August 27 Stadium, Damaturu which albeit is the home ground of the Mohammed Babaganaru men before the LMC hammer on it two weeks ago.

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Yobe Stars are yet to lose their unbeaten record at home this season and they will face one of their strongest tests in their bid to retain their status on Sunday against Kano Pillars. Babaganaru was able to secure the services of experienced league players despite taking charge of a club having their debut campaign in the league and the investment has paid off as they are presently seventh in the league table with 16 points from 10 games. They will be motivated to win the game knowing that a surprise home win could take them to the top three at the end of weekend matches.

Pillars under Ibrahim Musa have been very hard to beat and they are presently on eighth matches unbeaten run but they must be at their best to avoid their second loss of the season. They have Junior Lokosa who is having a barnstorming season to get the goals after he notched his 10th goal of the season from 11 matches last week against Go Round. They need an away win in Damaturu to preserve their first spot in the league log with Lobi Stars who are breathing down their neck playing at home against Katsina United.      


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