NPFL Matchday 14 Previews: Lobi Stars out to consolidate lead

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Victory over Rivers United will see Solomon Ogbeide remain atop the Nigeria topflight log for another week

Akwa United vs Abia Warriors

The Promise Keepers are targeting their third home win from four previous encounters with the Warriors since 2015 as both teams face off again on Sunday at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.

Abia Warriors got lucky under Kennedy Boboye in 2016 when they defeated Akwa United  2-1 in Uyo through strikes from Anthony Okemmiri and Ndifreke Effiong after Kufre Ubong had shot the home team in the lead but they lost 3-1 in Uyo last season and were held to a goalless draw in Umuahia in the last season’s reverse fixture played on July 19, 2017.

A home win will fascinate the Promise Keepers because it could shoot them to the top of the league if Lobi Stars fail to pick maximum points at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi against Rivers United while Abia Warriors who currently sixth in the league table with 18 points have the opportunity of breaking into the top five if they get at least a draw. 

 

Lobi Stars vs Rivers United

It will be an explosive contest in Makurdi when the Pride of Benue slug it out with the Pride of Rivers with a home win guaranteeing Lobi Stars a place at the top for another week.

For Rivers United, losing in Makurdi could mark their gradual return to the drop zone which they occupied at the beginning of the season.

Lobi Stars’ performance this season has been awesome with seven points already garnered from their away trips and have remained almost perfect at home with 19 points taken out of possible 21 from seven matches played at home.

Rivers United have not really impressed this season but their 1-0 away win against Kwara United in Ilorin brought about a false hope before 3-0 loss to Wikki Tourists in Jos forced a reality check. They need a positive result on Sunday if they are to be taken seriously.

 

Go Round vs Enugu Rangers

The Lions of Omoku really roared on Thursday when they defeated Plateau United who are the reigning league champions in a rescheduled league game played at the Krisdera Hotel Stadium.

They have another tough clash against Enugu Rangers on Sunday and they must hit below the belt again for a second successive game if they are to record another famous win.

The win against the Peace Boys took Ngozi Elechi's side out of the relegation zone and another triumph over Gbenga Ogunbote's men could take them to the top 10 if results from other centres are in their favour.

Meanwhile, Rangers have been blowing hot and cold this season but they managed to win their last home game against Enyimba at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu.

However, they are odds-on to pick a point from this encounter but if they underrate the newcomers like other teams did in the past, it could be to their peril as their position in the top 10 could be threatened at the end of weekend games.

 

FC Ifeanyiubah vs Plateau United                            

The Anambra Warriors are having a torrid time in the topflight this season under new coach, Isa Ladan Bosso and they are under intense pressure to beat the league reigning champions on Sunday if they do not want to sink further into the relegation zone.

They are yet to win a game in the last three matches which also coincided with the period their two strikers, Godwin Obaje and Seka Paschal have stayed out of action due to injuries.

The management of FC Ifeanyiubah may run out of patience this weekend if victory is not secured against Plateau United. They are 18th in the league table with 15 points from 13 matches.

Plateau United on their part have really disappointed in some matches  they were expected to pick valuable away points which they lost against Niger Tornadoes, Go Round and Abia Warriors and with the desperation of their hosts, it may be very difficult for the Kennedy Boboye men to walk away with anything at the end of Sunday’s fixture.

They may be fifth in the league log with 18 points but another loss in Nnewi could see them fall out of the 10 in a twist to their early season form when they were at the summit of the table.

 

Kwara United vs Kano Pillars

The Harmony Boys are another team that are not having the best of time in the elite division this season and their 20th spot in the league table is a true reflection of their present state. They will begin a new life under new coach Abubakar Bala on Sunday when they host Sai Masu Gida.

Kwara United have the players to get the job done but their spirit is low because of poor welfare package and they need more than a change of the technical crew to effect the necessary turnaround.

Pillars are in form but they suffered their second home draw last week against Niger Tornadoes who are having a decent run under caretaker coach, Hamzat Abara. They will be eager to make amends for the points dropped in Kano when they trade tackles with the Harmony Boys on Sunday after missing a great opportunity to mount the summit of the league table last week.

They are currently third in the league log with 21 points from 13 matches but it is on record that Pillars are yet to pick an away point against Kwara United in Ilorin since 2012.

 

Heartland vs Nasarawa United

The last time the Solid Miners came to Owerri, they were beaten by a late Emmanuel Makama goal on August 6, 2016 but a lot have changed between the Naze Millionaires’ players that defeated the Kabiru Dogo led side back then.

Heartland fired coach Ramson Madu on Thursday and have appointed Ezekiel Onyegbula in his place. It has not solved the problem because the new coach will still have to work with the same inexperienced players he inherited on Sunday against the Solid Miners and till the start of the mid-season transfer next month at least.

Heartland are paying the price of poor recruitment at the start of the season and lack of enough pre-season activities and it will be hard for the new coach to perform a magic when they are faced with experienced and more prepared topflight teams every week.

Nasarawa United are not impressive this term with the 16 points they have had this season coming only from their home matches unlike previous seasons. They have a great chance to start that against Heartland.

 

MFM vs Katsina United

The Olukoya Boys will play their first game since their heavy loss in Algeria to MC Alger versus Katsina United at the Agege Stadium, Lagos.

They were totally humiliated by the Algerians last weekend and all eyes will on them to see how they are going to bounce back with Fidelis Ilechukwu still at the saddle.

They have been far from impressive this season and it seems their qualification to the continent added more pressure to the team. They were unable to recruit quality players for the Caf Champions League campaign while administrative lapses also meant that Sikiru Olatunbosun, Akila Jesse and few others were not registered for the competition.  

The Olukoya Boys need an emphatic win against the Chanji Boys to gradually earn back the support of their fans.

Abdullahi Biffo men have been outstanding since the beginning of the season especially in their home games where they silenced top teams like Enyimba and FC Ifeanyiubah and they picked an away draw against Wikki Tourists.

With only a point separating Katsina United from the drop zone, they know that they can’t afford to lose while the Olukoya Boys who are in dire need of a victory boast of 16 points from 11 games.

 

Niger Tornadoes vs Sunshine Stars

Both teams are experiencing contrasting fortunes. The Ikon Allah Boys are unbeaten in their last four games aand have managed to keep three clean sheets out of the games.

They could break into the top six with victory over the Owena Whales while expecting results at other match venues are in their favour.

Sunshine Stars are having their own issues as well and just last week they announced the appointment of Henry Abiodun as a coach of the team in place of Duke Udi who was unceremoniously sacked.

They did earn their first win under the new coach against Yobe Desert Stars but must show more character if they are to halt the roller coaster run of Niger Tornadoes.

The Owena Whales are only goals difference away from the drop zone and anything other than a positive result in Minna could see them slide back into the murky waters.

 

Wikki Tourists vs El Kanemi Warriors

The Giant Elephants and the Borno Army are in a tango of relegation battlers at the Zaria Road Stadium. Bala Nikyu and his boys have had a near perfect record at home before Katsina United dented it with a draw four weeks ago but they responded with a bang two weeks ago when they thrashed Rivers United 3-0.

They have another opportunity to bounce back before their fans following their defeat to Abia Warriors in Umuahia. They are in a must-win situation to claw their way out of the relegation zone which they presently occupy with 16 points from 13 games.

El Kanemi Warriors will go in the hunt for another away point after they grabbed their first in Ilorin against Kwara United two weeks ago.

They need a positive outcome in Jos to stay out of the relegation zone before their next home match Akwa United on April 1.

 

Yobe Desert Stars vs Enyimba

Mohammed Babaganaru's men will face a serious battle to protect their unbeaten home record this weekend when they tackle the People’s Elephant at the August 27 Stadium, Damaturu.

Yobe Stars have won all their six home matches and they belong in the same class with Akwa United and Plateau United who are the only three clubs who are yet to drop points before their fans in the top flight this season.

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The newly-promoted side will not be short of experienced players as some of their top stars were either former players of Enyimba or of other top premier league teams. They are currently fourth in the league table with 19 points from 12 games even with a match at hand. A win could take them further up in the league log in their debut campaign.

Enyimba will be without Wasiu Alalade and Ikouwem Utin but they have enough players to fill in for their unavailability and ensure that they are better placed at the end of weekend fixtures than their present ninth spot in the league table with 17 points from 11 games.

     

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