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NPFL Matchday Five Previews: Enugu Rangers, Enyimba tango in Oriental derby

10:39 GMT 27/01/2019
Kelly Kester
The Oriental and Northern derbies holding in Enugu and Lafia respectively are among interesting top-flight fixtures on display this weekend

WIKKI TOURISTS VS SUNSHINE STARS

Wikki Tourists will welcome Sunshine Stars to Pantami Stadium, Gombe for their weekend duel in anticipation of their second win of the season after their unlucky defeat to Katsina United on Wednesday.

The Giant Elephant thought they had done enough to pick their first away point in Katsina but second-half substitute, Sheriff Bashir stabbed their hearts with a late goal. Head coach, Aliyu Zubairu must encourage his boys to put behind them their loss in Katsina if they are to beat Sunshine Stars who seem to be doing well under a new coach, Kabiru Dogo.

Sunshine Stars must approach their away game with Wikki Tourists with caution after they were held to a 1-1 draw at home on Wednesday by Rivers United. They are yet to secure their first win of the season but they won’t like to lose at this stage too. They must react positively after the home draw if they are to be taken seriously regarding their ambition for the season.

                                               

RIVERS UNITED VS MFM

Rivers United will finally play in front of their fans for the first time this season when they trade tackles with MFM at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday.

The Pride of Rivers have started the season with two consecutive away drawn games against Niger Tornadoes and Sunshine Stars and a home win against the Olukoya Boys will take them to five and with two home games at hand against Remo Stars and Katsina United, Stanley Eguma’s men will fancy their chances of staying close to the top of the table if they are able to nick the maximum points in those matches.

MFM are currently on top of the NPFL Group A with six points from three games but they rely too much on their home form just like last season when they found it difficult to get points at their away games. They started the season abysmally when they stuttered against Enyimba in a tie they could have lost by as many goals as possible but they have been awesome at home with two consecutive wins against Kwara United (2-0) and Enugu Rangers (1-0).

Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men must go in search of their first away points this weekend in Port Harcourt but the sign that they can pull such result is very difficult to believe based on the result they recorded against Rivers United in a preseason tournament they attended in Port Harcourt. If they are able to come out and not play second fiddle to their hosts, they may surprise even themselves with a positive result.   

 

ENUGU RANGERS VS ENYIMBA

Enugu Rangers versus Enyimba tie is undoubtedly the star match of the week because both teams shared 14 league titles between them and have always remained competitive irrespective of the accolades they have garnered since their formation years ago.

It is the Oriental derby and the Flying Antelopes showed that they meant business ahead of the fixture when they rested some of their best players in their away game to MFM which they lost 1-0. Godwin Aguda, Bright Silas, Godwin Zaki, Kelvin Itoya, Chiamaka Madu among others were some notable names that missed the game in Lagos after head coach, Gbenga Ogunbote decided to rotate his team.

The Flying Antelopes have remained irrepressible on the continent after six games and are through to the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup but they lost their unbeaten start to the season after they went to Lagos with an under-strength team. They must react and secure their first points of the season before their fans if they are to be taking seriously.

Enyimba players put every foot wrong in Aba against Lobi Stars and were only rewarded with a point but they must avoid defeat in Enugu against their bitter rivals to appease their fans who were still not happy that they had dropped points at home in only their second game before them.

  

LOBI STARS VS KWARA UNITED

Lobi Stars finally managed to end their unimpressive result when they tamed Enyimba at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba on Wednesday but they must go all out against Kwara United to record their first win of the season in their first home game of the season.

The Pride of Benue have been blowing hot and cold since the start of their campaign in the Caf Champions League where they have lost all their away games thus far. With a home game against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in Makurdi on Friday, Lobi cannot afford to joke with this game as it is their only build up fixture before the must-win tie in the lucrative club competition.

Kwara United are playing their second consecutive away game after the draw they got against Bendel Insurance on Wednesday in Benin. Abubakar Bala’s men must strive to get another away point to completely make up for their home draw with Sunshine Stars in their first game of the season in Ilorin but they must be ready to fight and be fully focused throughout the 90 minutes to achieve that. They have five points thus far from four games and are second in NPFL table in Group A. 

 

REMO STARS VS KATSINA UNITED

Remo Stars will begin life at the Oshogbo Township Stadium on Sunday when they host Katsina United in their second home game of the season. Sky Blue Stars’ fans lost their sense of dignity in Shagamu against Bendel Insurance when they beat the match officials that handled the game into a stupor but they have been severely dealt with by the League Management Company (LMC) who fined the heavily and banished them to their present base for the next three home games.

Kennedy Boboye’s men must find a way to secure their first home win after they fought very hard to have a share of the spoils in Minna against Niger Tornadoes on Wednesday for their first away point of the season.

Katsina United will be buoyed by the release of their head coach, Abdullahi Biffo from his abductors to go in search of another important point against Remo Stars in Oshogbo. They began their season with a hard-fought 1-0 home win against Wikki Tourists but they will fancy their chances against the Sky Blue Stars who will be playing away from their main home.   

 

NIGER TORNADOES VS BENDEL INSURANCE

Niger Tornadoes will have another opportunity to secure their first home win at the third time of asking against Bendel Insurance on Sunday after they were held in Minna in their last two home games against Rivers United and Remo Stars. They had lost narrowly to Wikki Tourists in Gombe last weekend.

Bernard Ogbe’s men are yet to get their groove after three league matches but it is believed that they are likely to get into their rhythm as soon as they are able to secure their first win of the season and after their failure in their last two home games it will become a sort of worry if they are unable to beat the Benin Arsenal on Sunday.

Bendel Insurance, on the other hand, have flattered to deceive since their promotion to the top-flight. They have played two matches but are yet to get their first win after they were unable to beat Kwara United in Benin on Wednesday. Monday Odigie’s men can add to the worries of Tornadoes if deny them another chance to bag their maiden home win of the current campaign.

 

YOBE DESERT STARS VS HEARTLAND

Yobe Desert Stars under Ngozi Elechi really played well against FC IfeanyiUbah in their first game of the season in Nnewi which they lost by a lone goal and if they are able to correct the loopholes noticed against the Anambra Warriors, it will be difficult for Heartland to deny them a home win.

The Damaturu side will gain more confidence beating the Naze Millionaires who have begun the season impressively and have won all their last three games both home and away. Beating Heartland on Sunday could be tonic they needed to face Gombe United on Wednesday in a rescheduled league tie at home.

Heartland have shown that they won’t struggle like they did last season this term with the recruitment they did at the beginning of the season and the results that have been recorded too. They had it good against Plateau United whom they thrashed 3-0 but they relied on luck against Go Round before managing a lone goal win to remain at the top of Group B with nine points from four games. They need a positive result in Damaturu to show to all that they mean serious business this season.

 

GO ROUND VS EL KANEMI WARRIORS

Go Round will rue their luck in Okigwe on Wednesday after they let in a late goal against Heartland which ended their unbeaten start to the season but they do not have much time to brood about it ahead of their weekend tie with El Kanemi Warriors at the Krisdera Hotel Stadium, Omoku.

They began the season with an away win against Abia Warriors before FC IfeanyiUbah came to Omoku to pick a valuable point but they will have another chance to secure their first home win against the Borno Army who shocked Akwa United 1-0 in Uyo in the first game of the season.

El Kanemi were fortunate to pick their second successive home win against Nasarawa United in Maiduguri on Thursday when Sunday Anthony riffled home the only goal in the 96th minute of the encounter. The win lifted them to second in the Group B log with nine points above FC IfeanyiUbah who temporarily occupied the position briefly on Wednesday after their home win over Yobe Stars.

Mohammed Babaganaru’s men were beaten by 2-0 last season when they last visited Omoku but with the stake higher this term based on how they have started the season, they must go for another positive result so that they can be taken seriously.

 

NASARAWA UNITED VS AKWA UNITED

Nasarawa United have been unlucky in their last three games against FC IfeanyiUbah, Heartland and El Kanemi Warriors and why they were unable to secure at least three points from the three matches should be a concern to the technical crew ahead of their home game with Akwa United in Lafia on Sunday.

The Solid Miners must produce their best game of the season to beat the Promise Keepers who presently not smiling as a result of their unimpressive start to the league season where they have delivered little when much was expected from them. Bala Nikyu’s men have lost their last three matches after their home win against Abia Warriors and they must strive to end the slide against Rafael Everton’s men who are also in bad shape and are yet to win a game after three games including two home matches.

 

PLATEAU UNITED VS KANO PILLARS

Plateau United versus Kano Pillars tie is another tough game that fans will enjoy their optimum at the Lafia Stadium this weekend. It is a northern derby and the fixture has elicited much hype and tension in the past.

Ex Kano Pillars’Junior Lokosa scored two brilliant goals last season that decided the tie in Kano but there was no return leg because the second game was billed for Matchday 26 before the season was interrupted because of the crisis that engulfed Nigerian football after the 2018 World Cup.

The Peace Boys have the honour of hosting the first leg this term and they must seek their pound of flesh against a crisis-ridden Sai Masu Gida whose reinstatement of their former coach, Ibrahim Musa seems to be generating ripples. They were held to a draw at home by Akwa United and were easily beaten by Gombe United and El Kanemi Warriors in the two games they have played outside Kano.

Plateau United too are not free of issues after they began the season terribly with a home draw against FC IfeanyiUbah and a 3-0 whitewash in the hands of Heartland in Okigwe. Results have improved in their last two games with El Kanemi Warriors and Akwa United where they picked four out of six points. They will be under pressure to secure another home win so as to declare them trouble-free.

 

KADA CITY VS FC IFEANYI UBAH

Kada City started life in the top-flight with a home win against Gombe United before they were beaten narrowly by Abia Warriors in Umuahia through a debatable penalty kick decision but they will be at home to FC IfeanyiUbah who are yet to concede a goal in the four games they have played including two away matches.

Usman Adams men must first think of how to unlock the defence of the Anambra Warriors ably led by their goalkeeper, Chinedu Anozie. They must forget about their loss to Abia Warriors even though it came rather late in a game they played very well and could have picked all points were they clinical with the opportunities they created.

FC IfeanyiUbah will put their unbeaten run to the test in Kaduna at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium. They have managed to pick the maximum points from the two games they have played at home against Nasarawa United and Yobe Desert Stars and have secured two away points from fixtures with Plateau United and Go Round. They are presently third in NPFL Group B with eight points from four games.     

 

ABIA WARRIORS VS GOMBE UNITED

Abia Warriors are gradually turning head under the tutelage of Henry Makinwa after they bagged their first win of the campaign against Kada City on Wednesday. They have another chance to make it two within the spate of three days and banish the memory of their home loss to Go Round completely if they are able to pick the maximum points against Gombe United on Sunday.

Gombe United are on the prowl to Umuahia to face Abia Warriors after their 2-0 home win over Kano Pillars last Wednesday at home at the Pantami Stadium for their first win in the top-flight since 2017 when they got relegated along with 3SC, ABS and Remo Stars. They are playing their second away game of the season after their close loss to Kada City in Kaduna last weekend.