NPFL Matchday Four Previews: Enyimba lay ambush for Lobi Stars, Sunshine Stars host Rivers United

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Olu Ogunfeyitimi
The People’s Elephant will face the Pride of Benue while Abdu Maikaba has a score to settle with Akwa United in Uyo among midweek fixtures

KATSINA UNITED VS WIKKI TOURISTS

After excusing Katsina United from the first three games of the season to enable them to find a solution to the disappearance of their head coach, Abdullahi Biffo who was allegedly abducted over two weeks ago, the Chanji Boys will host Wikki Tourists on Wednesday at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium, Katsina.

The coach was said to be on his way to Katsina from the yuletide break when he was kidnapped along Kaduna expressway but the team must forget about his harrowing experience in the hands of his abductors ahead of a crucial home tie with the Giant Elephant which will mark the start of their season in the top flight this term.

They ended last season impressively by Katsina United standards where they were finished seventh in the league and got to the semi-final of the Federation Cup.

Wikki are currently third in Group A with three points after just a game and Aliyu Zubairu’s men will like to start their campaign away from home on a good note against distracted Katsina United.
 

SUNSHINE STARS VS RIVERS UNITED

Kabiru Dogo will be making his managerial bow in front of Akure fans on Wednesday when Sunshine Stars host Rivers United in a tough NPFL cracker at the Ondo Sports Complex, Akure.

Both teams met recently in Port Harcourt in the final of a preseason tournament which the Owena Whales won on penalties after they held the Pride of Rivers to a goalless draw at the end of the 90 minutes but the stakes will be higher at midweek because they both still in search of their first win of the season at the second time of asking.

Sunshine started the season with an away draw against Kwara United in Ilorin but they were unable to face Enugu Rangers and Lobi Stars in match days two and three respectively because both teams were involved in Caf inter-club competitions.

Rivers United began the season better than they ended last season after they held Niger Tornadoes to a 1-1 draw at the Bako Kotangora Stadium, Minna and they are unlucky to be involved in a second away game on the stretch because their matchdays one and three foes, Remo Stars and Katsina United were given compassionate break.

The way Eguma’s men react again in Akure will prove a lot about their determination to turn a new leave and be very competitive this season or whether it will be a repeat of the old order. They are seventh in the Group A league table with a point from one game.

 

MFM VS ENUGU RANGERS

It will be a battle royale in Lagos when MFM host Enugu Rangers in a repeat of the fixture two seasons ago which produced a brilliant goal scored by the then Olukoya Boys’ Sikiru Olatunbosun which made it to the CNN Goal of the Week in 2017.

Things have changed between both teams now with the Olukoya Boys who placed second in the league two seasons ago and represented Nigeria on the continent last year now reduced to a team battling for their survival in the top flight after most of their established players have been sold to rival teams.

The Olukoya Boys are presently fourth in Group A of the abridged NPFL table with three points from two games and a win against the Flying Antelopes could force purists to start reckoning with them as a team good enough to spring surprises this season based on the quality of the players they have who are mostly inexperienced.

Rangers are playing their first league game of the season because of their involvement in the Caf Confederation Cup which they are now through to its group stage and they will be rated by the way they start it either good or bad.
 

ENYIMBA VS LOBI STARS

The game in Aba between Enyimba and Lobi Stars is unarguably the match of the week because of the calibre of opposition. The People’s Elephant are seven times winners of the league and are expected to pick all points after their unfortunate loss to Kwara United in Ilorin on Sunday.

Usman Abdallah’s men were very delectable to watch in their opening game of the season against MFM but they were given reality check in Ilorin in a game they scored two away goals but still ended on the losing side. They have an opportunity to redeem themselves in front their fans at the Enyimba International Stadium and even though they are up against the reigning league champions they could be ruining their losses at the end of the game if they are unable to pick the maximum points.

Lobi Stars have been poor in their away matches this season having lost all the three fixtures they have played outside their home in the Caf Champions League. They need to get a few away points before their next game in Africa’s lucrative club competition to serve as a morale booster.
 

BENDEL INSURANCE VS KWARA UNITED

The Edo Arsenal will have the opportunity to host their first league game in Benin in 11 years on Wednesday against Kwara United after their return to the top flight at the beginning of the season.

They didn’t start the season as newcomers after they picked valuable away points against Remo Stars in Sagamu and they will be out to secure their first win of the season against the Harmony Boys who are currently dictating with the pace of the NPFL Group A table with four points from three games.

Monday Odigie’s men were very impressive during the NNL Super 8 where they got to the final before losing on penalties to Kada City and elite division matches will now toughen their readiness to campaign among the big teams.
 

NIGER TORNADOES VS REMO STARS

Tornadoes didn’t click into their weekend tie with Wikki Tourists early enough and they only started seriously playing after they were 2-0 down with only seven minutes left of normal time. But they have a home tie with Remo Stars who are presently traumatised due to the pronouncement from the League Management Company over their fans involvement in the violence that erupted after their last weekend home game with Bendel Insurance.

It is the best opportunity for Ikon Allah Boys to grab their first win of the season but the three points won’t come on the platter with the Sky Blue Stars also battling for their own survival in their return season to the elite division. Bernard Ogbe’s men were held to a draw by Rivers United before their loss to Wikki Tourists in Gombe and with only a point to show after two games they will be desperate to win this for their fans.

Remo Stars gained a berth back to the top flight after they finished among the top two in Group B during the NNL Super eight playoff in Aba but their home draw with Bendel Insurance showed that they were yet to settle down to life in the elite division and they will need a good result in Minna to prove their doubters wrong.

 

FC IFEANYI UBAH VS YOBE STARS

The Anambra Warriors though are unbeaten after three games into the season but they only secure their first win of the season in their last home game by the skin of their teeth. They will host Yobe Desert Stars going all out for another victory which could either consolidate their third spot in Group B or even take them higher than that.

Uche Okagbue’s men displayed a lot of steel and the determination in getting successive draws in their two away games with Plateau United and Go Round. Despite losing most of their experienced players to other clubs in the NPFL at the end of last season, their greenhorns have not disappointed at least for now. They are third with five points from three games.

Yobe Desert Stars are in their second season in the top flight and under a new manager, Ngozi Elechi it will be nice how they are going to start the season after they were exempted from the first three games. They have had a fairly good preseason but they have a chance to prove to all that their good preseason form was no fluke.

 

HEARTLAND VS GO ROUND

The Naze Millionaires surprised even themselves when they went to Lafia and pick all points against Nasarawa United last weekend. They had begun the season with a narrow loss to Kano Pillars before they put Plateau United to the sword at their new home in Okigwe last midweek.

The vital away win against the Solid Miners catapulted them to the top of the NPFL Group B table with six points from three games and they will consolidate their stronghold of the log with a routine home win against Go Round on Wednesday. They have turned the Okigwe Township Stadium to their fortress and with the way they dismembered the 2017 league champions, the Omoku Lions will find it difficult to survive the heat throughout the duration of the game.

Go Round will visit Okigwe with one of Heartland’s former coaches, Willy Udube and he will be hoping to make it second time lucky against another of his former team after he masterminded their shock away win over Abia Warriors in Omoku. They were unable to sustain the tempo in their next game with FC IfeanyiUbah which ended goalless but they will be eager to make amend for the points they lost at home in Okigwe.

 

EL KANEMI WARRIORS VS NASARAWA UNITED

El Kanemi Warriors’ flying start to the season was rudely cut short in Ilorin last weekend when they were beaten 2-0 by Plateau United but they will be out to compound the woes of their visitors, Nasarawa United in Maiduguri on Wednesday. The Borno Army recorded two successive victories against Akwa United and Kano Pillars before the loss to the Peace Boys.

They will strive to record an emphatic home win if it will be enough for them to steal their first spot back from Heartland who are the present occupants by their virtue of superior goals difference. Both teams have six points after three games and Mohammed Babaganaru’s men will be out backed by a vociferous crowd to claim their second home win of the season.

The Solid Miners are under tremendous pressure to secure at least a point from this encounter after their 1-0 home loss to Heartland. Though the decision by Nasarawa United to name Bala Nikyu as head coach barely a day to their first game with Abia Warriors could be a factor in their early struggles the new coach must fashion out a solution if he does not want speculation on his future in the media.

 

AKWA UNITED VS PLATEAU UNITED

This is undoubtedly the game of the week in Group B with the former Federation Cup champions up against the 2017 league champions at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.

Akwa United didn’t start the season as expected after their shock loss to El Kanemi Warriors at home but they avoided a defeat in Kano against Kano Pillars last weekend to ensure that they go into Wednesday’s game full of belief and confidence that they have what it takes to beat Plateau United who are also stuttering after three games.

Rafael Everton will also like to have a bragging right over his predecessor, Abdu Maikaba who left the Promise Keepers for the Peace Boys at the end of last season to enable him to have any chance at working in Nigeria. His club are at present with just a point after two games.

It is the first time that Maikaba will be setting his feet on Uyo since he left the team at the end of last season as he prepares his team to face his former employers. The Flying Eagles assistant coach has asked for more time with Plateau United after their unimpressive results in the opening two games but a game against Akwa United should be fascinating to watch.

 

GOMBE UNITED VS KANO PILLARS

Gombe United left Kaduna after their defeat to Kada City with the resolve that they are going back home to work on what they must do to earn their first win of the season against Kano Pillars.

The Desert Scorpions didn’t leave up to expectations in their first game of the season but Ladan Bosso assured that things will be different against Sai Masu Gida who are also in dire need of the points they lost at home to Akwa United. It will no doubt be a tough game at the Pantami Stadium, Gombe on Wednesday.

Pillars have reinstated Ibrahim Musa whose contract was not renewed at the end of the final of the Federation Cup which they lost to Enugu Rangers under painful circumstances despite leading at a time in the fixture by 3-0. His return became inevitable after the interim coach, Kabiru Baleria was unable to secure a successive home win. Musa has begged for forgiveness and wants everyone in the club to work together but this game will tell a lot how far they have been able to close ranks for the interest of the club.

 

ABIA WARRIORS VS KADA CITY

Abia Warriors must put the circumstances that led to the resignation of one of their coaches, Moses Adenrele and their home loss to Go Round behind them and focus on the task ahead when they host Kada City at the Umuahia Township Stadium on Wednesday.

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The Warriors were very excited to watch last season under Emmanuel Deutsch who guided them to several away draws but under a new coach, Henry Makinwa they are still trying to get their bearing after successive losses against Nasarawa United and Go Round. They have the chance to start what could turn out to be an exciting season with a home win against Usman Adams’ men.

Kada City got their historic first top-flight win when they pipped Gombe United 2-1 in Kaduna last weekend and against Abia Warriors they could add to their woes if they are able to replicate the way they played while at the NNL Super eight in Aba in Umuahia. They have a good set of players with a brilliant gaffer at the helm of affairs and it will be any surprise if they are able to cause some upsets in their debut campaign.

 

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