NPFL Matchday Seven Preview: Lobi Stars, MFM & Sunshine Stars in tough away ties

The Asaba based tactician has charged the match officials of their Federation Cup Round of 32 fixture to be forthright with their calls

WIKKI TOURISTS VS ENYIMBA

Wikki Tourists will be seeking a return to winning ways when they host Enyimba at the Pantami Stadium in Gombe on Thursday.

The Giant Elephants have played three games at home and they have managed to win two but lost the third to Sunshine Stars. They were beaten 1-0 by MFM last weekend in Lagos and with the fact that they are hovering over the relegation zone at eighth position with six points from five games they are in dire need of the maximum points against the People’s Elephant.

Enyimba secured their first win from the last three games on Sunday when they put Rivers United to the sword in Aba. They can’t afford to lose more ground in the league table where they currently trail group leaders, MFM by two points. They will need at least a point to prove to their fans that they are ready to reclaim the league title they won last in 2015. They are currently fourth in Group A with seven points from five games.  
 

RIVERS UNITED VS KWARA UNITED                   

Rivers United lost their first game of the season in Aba against Enyimba last weekend but they do not have much time to brood over that with another important home match against Kwara United slated for Wednesday.

The Pride of Rivers are third in Group A with eight points from five games and they are under pressure to beat the Harmony Boys to brighten their chances of returning to the top of the table with MFM, Sunshine Stars and Enyimba all having away games to contend with this midweek.

Kwara United have really not impressed much since the season started. They have only five points from five games despite already played two home games and three away. They were beaten 2-0 and 3-0 respectively by MFM and Lobi Stars but they cannot afford to record such result against Rivers United as they are already in the relegation zone where they currently occupy the 10th position after five games.  
 

ENUGU RANGERS VS LOBI STARS

It will be the battle of two gladiators who are the representatives of Nigeria on the continent on Thursday in Enugu when Enugu Rangers host Lobi Stars in a league tie.

Rangers found it difficult to beat Lobi Stars last season after they walked away with a point in Enugu but Gbenga Ogunbote has refreshed his squad with new players who are hungry for success and have the experience too to cope with pressure. They are doing well in the Caf Confederation Cup where they are currently on top of Group B with three points from the single game they have played. They will need a home win against the Pride of Benue before proceeding to Tunisia where they have a game with CS Sfaxien on Wednesday next week.

Lobi Stars are having a contrasting result in the Caf Champions League where they were beaten 1-0 at home by Wydad Casablanca in the last game played. They will pray for good fortune against Rangers after Bendel Insurance handed them their first defeat of the season in the league on Monday.  If they are eager to defend the league title they won by default last season they must secure at least a point from the encounter fixed for the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu where they have played all their Caf Champions League games till date.

Solomon Ogbeide’s men need a match like this to toughen them before they travel to Casablanca for the return leg of the fixture with Wydad. They have only four points from three games in the NPFL and they will be eager for more to show critics that their victory of last season wasn’t a fluke.
 

REMO STARS VS MFM

Remo Stars narrowly lost their last two games in Port Harcourt and Akure against Rivers United and Sunshine Stars but they know that it is only the three points that can placate their fans against MFM in the South West derby fixed for the Osogbo Township Stadium on Wednesday.

The Sky Blue Stars began the season as among the teams to be watched out for and it was a stoppage-time goal that ended their unbeaten run against Rivers United. They are ninth in the league table with five points from five games.

MFM have relied heavily on their home matches this term just like it was last season. They are first in the NPFL Group A with nine points because they have secured 100 percent points at home in the three they have played against Kwara United, Enugu Rangers, and Wikki Tourists and have also lost the two away games they have prosecuted against Enyimba and Rivers United. The Olukoya Boys are aware that anything can happen in local derbies and they will no doubt set out to record their first away points of the season against their next-door neighbours.  

 

NIGER TORNADOES VS SUNSHINE STARS                      

Hamza Abara will start life as the interim head coach of Niger Tornadoes in their midweek confrontation with Sunshine Stars after the erstwhile manager, Bernard Ogbe voluntarily resigned because of the club’s unimpressive start to the season where they are yet to win a game in six matches. They have played three games at home and only boast of three points from as many matches to be placed last in the NPFL Group A.

Abara came on a rescue mission last season after the then coach, Erasmus Onu was also sacked early in the season owing to strings of poor results and he succeeded in piloting the affair of the club out of the drop zone. He has been charged with the same responsibility and it is unknown if he will be second time lucky this term.

Sunshine Stars under Kabiru Dogo have taken new nomenclature and among the teams of the season thus far. The Owena Whales are second in the NPFL Group A with eight points from four games. They have played two away games against Kwara United (1-1) and Wikki Tourists (1-0) and with two games at hand against Lobi (home) and Enugu Rangers (away), they should be in a vantage position to contest for the league crown by the time they exhaust their outstanding games.

The tie against the Ikon Allah Boys and its timing will no doubt test their character and their resolve to hold on to their unbeaten run in the top-flight this term. 

 

KATSINA UNITED VS BENDEL INSURANCE

Katsina United will face Bendel Insurance for the first time in the top-flight on Thursday with the outcome of the tie very important to both teams.

The Chanji Boys welcome back their head coach, Abdullahi Biffo with a deserved 3-1 bashing of Niger Tornadoes last weekend which led to the resignation of Bernard Ogbe who left his duty post as the manager of the Minna based team. They have another home game barely four days later against Bendel insurance who are still finding their feet among the big boys. a home win could see them move to the top three with MFM, Sunshine Stars, Rivers United and even Enyimba all having away games this mid-week.

Bendel Insurance are still learning the ropes in their return season to the NPFL and having waited until the sixth game of the season before recording their first win of the season against Lobi Stars (1-0) they have made a long dash to Katsina with a view to picking another important point.

They have two points from the three games they have played at away and they will not like to pass up another opportunity to add another one to their tally at the end of the Thursday’s encounter at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium, Katsina.   

 

YOBE DESERT STARS VS AKWA UNITED

Yobe Desert Stars complained about the officiating in Maiduguri when they were beaten 2-1 by El Kanemi Warriors last weekend but ahead of another banana skin fixture against Akwa United, they must have to put their complaint from their last tie aside to ensure that they pick another crucial three points at home at the August 27th Stadium, Damaturu.

Heartland and Gombe United have already fallen in Damaturu and Ngozi Elechi and his men must do something special before their fans to ensure that the Promise Keepers do not shock them like they did last season when they went away with a lone goal victory.  Yobe Stars are currently eighth in the NPFL Group B with six points from four games ahead of the duel.

Akwa United grabbed their first win of the season in spectacular fashion against Go Round last weekend whom they mauled 3-0 in Uyo. They are however not yet saved as they are still in the relegation zone in the 10th position with five points from five games.

They are in Damaturu where they secured maximum points last season but Rafael Everton’s men will play without Michael Ibe who scored the lone goal having left the team to sign a two-year contract with a club in Jordan.  


GO ROUND VS KANO PILLARS

The battle-line is drawn between the fourth and the fifth-placed teams in the NPFL Group B when Go Round and Kano Pillars square up at the Krisdera Hotel Stadium, Omoku in a crucial league tie on Wednesday.

Sai Masu Gida flogged the Dare the Lions 2-0 in their only encounter in the top-flight last season and Willy Udube’s men must be up and doing to cause a major upset against the four-time league champions. They have only a win to show after three home games against FC Ifeanyi Ubah (0-0), El Kanemi Warriors (1-0) and Kada City (0-0) and against Kano Pillars who have started enjoying a new lease of life under reinstated Ibrahim Musa, it will be a tough call in Omoku.

Kano Pillars thrashed Nasarawa United 3-0 at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano on Sunday and it was a follow up of their impressive barren draw against Plateau United in Lafia where they grabbed their first away point of the season. They seemed to have put behind them their early season’s worries and it may be the wrong time for Go Round to host Sai Masu Gida. 

 

NASARAWA UNITED VS PLATEAU UNITED

This is a local derby between Nasarawa United and Plateau United. The Solid Miners make use of the Lafia Township Stadium for their home games but Plateau United are on secondment to the same stadium after the punishment from the League Management Company (LMC) that they must play their next two home games against Kano Pillars (0-0) and Go Round in Lafia.

It may be a blessing in disguise for the Peace Boys who are having the game as the away team against their host. Abdu Maikaba’s men are in the seventh spot with seven points from six games in the NPFL Group B and they need all the points they can get to make up for the ones they have lost at home while playing against FC Ifeanyi Ubah (0-0) and  Kano Pillars (0-0).

Nasarawa United have begun the season the same way they ended it last season. The 3-0 bashing in the hands of Kano Pillars was their recent low point and they need a home win to assuage the worries of their fans who have watched them lost a game to Heartland in Lafia. They have won two home games from the three they have played but they were beaten on the three times they have traveled out for away games.

They are presently ninth in Group B with six points and a home win will no doubt boost their points haul.   

 

KADA CITY VS EL KANEMI WARRIORS

Kada City were unlucky to lose to Heartland in Okigwe in their last away game and they are at home to El Kanemi Warriors with their sights fixed on the three points to improve their position in the league table where they are currently last with four points from five games.

Usman Adams’ men will be involved in their third home game of the season on Wednesday against the Borno Army and they have only won one of the two games. The Crocodile Boys are showing team with potentials but they must start getting the required results to complement the hard work they put up on the pitch.

El Kanemi Warriors have not got another point besides the opening day shocker in Uyo where they scored a last minute goal to beat Akwa United. They are up against NPFL debutants and they should fancy their chances at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna. They are currently in the second spot with 12 points from six matches. 

 

ABIA WARRIORS VS HEARTLAND

It is another oriental derby between Abia Warriors and Heartland at the Umuahia Township Stadium. Despite being five times winners of the league title (while still bearing the name Iwuanyanwu Nationale) the Naze Millionaires are yet to beat their Wednesday rivals either home or away in official matches.

Abia Warriors are coming into this tie at the back of their away win against FC Ifeanyi Ubah on Sunday in Nnewi in another Oriental derby and they will be hoping to make it back to back win for the first time this season. Before the surprise win in Nnewi, Abia Warriors have been inconsistent and have dropped five points at home already from only three games but they showed their true character against the Anambra Warriors who were hitherto unbeaten and had goals not scored against them before that game.

Henry Makinwa’s men are sixth in the NPFL Group B with seven points from five games.

Heartland have done enough to ensure that they grab at least a point from this encounter in Umuahia. They have assembled the best crop of players and are currently at the top of Group B with 12 points from six games. If they are put to shame their unimpressive record against Abia Warriors now is the right time to achieve that.    

 

FC IFEANYI UBAH VS GOMBE UNITED

This fixture bred controversy two seasons ago after the centre referee decided to end the game while Gombe United were goal-bound. Both teams are however coming into this tie on a clean slate having strived to forget what happened in the past.

FC Ifeanyi Ubah players have another chance to prove their critics wrong that their home loss to Abia Warriors was just a fluke if they are able to beat Gombe United in their home clash. The Anambra Warriors started the season with a bang and they were unbeaten in their opening five games and without conceding any goal before their bogey team, Abia Warriors came and halted that.

They have been displaced to third in the NPFL Group B table with 11 points from six games but they have the prospect of reclaiming top spot from Heartland and El Kanemi Warriors who are playing away to Abia Warriors and Kada City respectively.

Gombe United are yet to shake off their disappointing home draw with Plateau United and only a positive result will be ideal for Ladan Bosso and his men. Bosso is poised to face his former employer, FC Ifeanyi Ubah for the first time since he left the team before the end of last season over breach of contract.

The Desert Scorpions are in the mire of the relegation zone as they are 11th in the league table with five points from five games.