The Nigerian Professional Football League resumes this weekend after a month’s recess. It was an action packed first half so what do we expect to see from some of the major teams?
At the top, Plateau United lead with 35 points. They have put in some solid displays especially on their away trips. However tabs will be kept on seeing if the Peace Boys can maintain momentum. It’s worth remembering that Coach Kenedy Boboye’s time at Abia Warriors did not end well last season having seen them hang in the top three for a long time. It’s up to the former Sunshine Stars boss to prove his doubters wrong.
Second placed Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries FC have continued to dazzle football enthusiasts with their vibrant style of play. We expect top scorer Stephen Odey to add to his tally of 14 goals and also continue his burgeoning partnership with Sikiru Olatunbosun and Chukwuka Onuwa.
El Kanemi Warriors have a 100% record at their base in Maiduguri. This has made them sit just two points behind Plateau United in third place. Home wins are important to success in the Nigerian top flight and if Ladan Bosso’s men can keep it going, they could defy odds with a strong finish in the continental places.
Niger Tornadoes and Akwa United have looked like two teams that could threaten the top three. They are in fourth and fifth place respectively and both sides are playing a good brand of football under Abubakar Bala and Abdu Maikaba that could help boost the image and popularity of the league.
Enyimba and Kano Pillars are the two most successful sides in the NPFL since the turn of the millennium but they are seventh and 14th respectively on the log. Sai Masu Gida haven’t been too impressive and with the legendary coach Kadiri Ikhana resigning due to poor health, things could get worse for Pillars in the second stanza.
The Peoples Elephant have been playing in the makeshift U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar and while they are yet to lose there, the stadium environment clearly shows they are struggling. It is yet to be seen if Gbenga Ogunbote would be able to improve the side beyond were they currently are but it’s worth keeping a close eye on.
The bottom half of the NPFL log has some big names that shouldn’t be there. Last season’s champions Rangers and runners up Rivers United had been at the foot of the log for much of the first half of the season due to their commitments in the Caf Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup. They are out of relegation waters but are still far behind from the heights of last season. The Pride of Rivers are still in Africa’s second tier tourney while the Flying Antelopes are without their title winning coach Imama Amapakabo who left by mutual consent. It’s going to be a long road to recovery for both teams.
Sunshine Stars are under the leadership of former Super Eagles coach Austin Eguavoen and it’s the hope that the new state government and reshuffle of the club hierarchy will be able to navigate the Ondo team away from their current 15th position.
Shooting Stars recorded a poor run of results including seven consecutive draws, five of which were at home. This has left them in 18th spot. Coach Fatai Amoo has been able to recall some old players in Wasiu Jimoh and Ajani Ibrahim and it is the hope that they will bring the needed spark to the team in a bid to avoid the drop as they’ve been recently accustomed to.
Wikki Tourists has been terribly poor. They are currently 19th having finished third the previous season. The exit of Maikaba and key players along with a lack of harmony within the club management could see the Bauchi side continue to struggle. Life in the Nigeria National League next season could be looming with the way they are going.
Languishing at the foot of the table are Remo Stars. The newly promoted side have showed flashes of brilliance and promise in their maiden campaign. However it has not been enough to see them move higher up the table. The team led by Fatai Osho will need to raise their game in this second stanza if they’ll have any chance of survival.
The need for teams to either maintain momentum or push towards their desired objectives would see an improvement in results. Whatever the outcome, the second stanza of the Nigeria Professional Football League is set to be exciting once again.