By Kolade Oni
The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) that started with so much promise on March 9, 2013 will be rounded off on Sunday amidst uncertainty on the true state of clubs at the top and those at the bottom.
Besides Shooting Stars that have their relegation fate already decided, the other three teams that will join the Oluyole Warriors in the lower league are still battling hard to stay in the elite division.
Goal brings you some of the high points of the final round of matches and its implication on the teams in the NPFL and their placement.
NEMBE CITY vs SUNSHINE STARS
Despite their good start to the season, both clubs got distracted by various factors and one is embroiled in relegation tussle while the other only guaranteed a berth in the premier league during the last game played.
Nembe gained qualification to the premier league with so much hype at the beginning of the season but they must beat the Akure Gunners by significant goals to stay in the top division.
They are placed 19th on the log with 49 points but the 1-6 thrashing suffered at ABS in the last game might have a negative effect on their desire to stay in the premier league. Sunshine will campaign in the top flight irrespective of the outcome as they are safe with 52 points from 37 matches.
ENUGU RANGERS vs EL KANEMI WARRIORS
The Flying Antelopes are obsessed with finishing the season in fifth spot after their hope of an instant return to the continent got dashed in Owerri when they lost to Heartland last Wednesday. They have promised El Kanemi Warriors they would leave the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium with no points at all.
The Maiduguri side will be on the continent if they beat Rangers in Enugu. They could even win the league if Kano Pillars capitulate in their own tie against Lobi Stars. Pillars are on top with 63 points but with inferior goals difference to El Kanemi who are only three points behind the reigning champions. Rangers on their part will end the season in fifth spot if they get at least a draw from this fixture. They are currently fifth with 55 points from 37 matches.
ENYIMBA vs SHARKS
The Peoples Elephant are going into this tie with a record of playing a whole season of premier league football without conceding a goal at home. They have dropped points at home this season against Warri Wolves and Kwara United. But both ties ended goalless while other games have finished in wins with their 3-0 mauling of Pillars the pick of the bunch.
They cannot win the league title again this season but they can end the season as second best. A win over the Blue Angels will take them to 62 points while they will hope that Bayelsa United and El Kanemi tumble in Gombe and Enugu respectively. Sharks will play in the premier league next season even if they lose by bucket load of goals in Aba because they already have 53 points from 37 matches and are off the relegation zone by four points.
NASARAWA UNITED vs HEARTLAND
The Lafia side depend so much on the outcome of this match after they lost a key fixture in Port Harcourt last Wednesday against Sharks 3-1.
They must beat the Naze Millionaires and still wait on other results at various centres before confirming their premier league status. Nasarawa United will be buoyed by the heavy presence of their scoring talisman, Victor Namo who will play this game before heading for the Super Eagles' camp on Monday.
Heartland will play in the elite division next season as long as they do not lose by a very wide margin. Heartland are in eighth spot with 52 points while the Lafia side are 17th with 49 points from 37 matches.
GOMBE UNITED vs BAYELSA UNITED
The Savannah Scorpions may still go on relegation this season despite losing only two points at home all season but got none away from the Pantami Stadium. The club has 52 points from 37 matches but their inferior goals difference of -9 may be their Achilles’ heel if they lose at home to Bayelsa United who are desperate for points to either win the league or get a ticket to play on the continent.
The Restoration Boys are currently second with 61 points from as many matches. They may win the league on the final day if they beat Gombe United and Pillars lose to Lobi in Katsina Ala.
WARRI WOLVES vs ABS
The Seasiders must beat ABS to restore lost pride while the Ilorin side are aiming to miraculously escape the drop on the final day of the season at the Warri Township Stadium.
Warri Wolves last won a league game during their Week 34 encounter against Wikki Tourists which they won 3-1 but they have suffered losses against Bayelsa United, Akwa United and 3SC. They are certain to be in the elite division next season irrespective of the result with their 52 points haul and a better goals difference, but a win may be a fitting way to pacify their disenchanted fans.
The club promised so much but delivered little. They crumbled after their loss to Enyimba in the final of the Federation Cup and not even three points they gained in the board room could turn their season around.
ABS need a win to get to 53 points and the lifeline for another season in the top flight but the Seasiders must avoid defeat if the players do not want to incur the wrath of their fans.
KWARA UNITED vs AKWA UNITED
This tie is interesting for two reasons. The game will be played on a neutral ground because of Kwara United's banishment to Lokoja and it is winner takes all. The Afonja Warriors in spite of three away wins could be relegated at the end this season. Kwara United must beat Akwa United while the latter must also avoid defeat at least to stand a chance of staying in the league for a third straight season.
The Ilorin side are 15th on the log with 49 points from 37 matches while The Uyo side are 12th with 50 points.
DOLPHINS vs WIKKI TOURISTS
The Port Harcourt dwellers have a date with destiny on Sunday at the Liberation Stadium. Stanley Eguma’s lads must beat Wikki Tourists to confirm their place in the elite division next season. They were in similar situation last season before a final day 2-0 win over ABS confirmed their premier league status.
Bauchi's Wikki will suffer the ignominy of going on relegation again this season after their return few seasons back. They have the herculean task of beating Dolphins in Port Harcourt and still wait on other results to go their way before their elite division status can be confirmed.
Dolphins have 50 points from 37 matches while Wikki are a point behind. Both are in 11th and 16th spots in that order.
LOBI STARS vs KANO PILLARS
This is the Makurdi Bombers' biggest game of the season and they must get a win no matter what it takes, to remain in the premier league. The club is presently suffering from a dearth of quality players and their myopic vision of selling their best players to overseas clubs.
Pillars on their part know that a draw in Katsina Ala will guarantee them back-to-back league titles. They have not taken the tie lightly at all because they have arrived Katsina Ala since Thursday, perfecting strategies ahead of the tie.
Lobi are 18th with 49 points from 37 matches.
KADUNA UNITED vs SHOOTING STARS (3SC)
The Crocodiles need outright victory to remain in the premier league next season while the Oluyole Warriors have already started preparing for life in the lower league next season having got their relegation ticket booked about two weeks ago.
Kaduna United have 50 points from 37 matches and are placed 14th while 3SC are rock bottom with 46 points.