The Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, enters week four today with a number of clubs looking to build on their very good start to the season. Lobi Stars are one of those teams, with the former league champions already setting the pace, even without the services of their top forward, Tony Okpotu, who is currently on national duties with Nigeria at the African Championship, CHAN, in Morocco.
We salute @LMCNPFL Top Scorer & @theOfficialLBA PLAYER OF THE SEASON, @ToniOkpotu for his sensational goal and performance today.
— Lobi Stars FC (@LobiStars) January 23, 2018
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The Makurdi based side take a trip to Zamfara, where they take on newly promoted outfit, Yobe Dessert Stars, hoping to maintain their unbeaten start to the season and build on their lead at the top of the table.
For the hosts, it hasn’t been the best of starts to life in the first division, after their promotion from the National League last season.
Dessert Stars have lost two of their opening three fixtures, drawing the other one. They face a Lobi side high on confidence at the moment, after a very good start to the campaign has seen them win two of their three games.
The Pride of Benue are the current leaders, on seven points, a point ahead of Aiteo Cup winners, Akwa United, who are away to Niger Tornadoes in Minna.
Lobi’s form hasn’t been a fluke though, as they are unbeaten in their last fives games, winning four and drawing one.
A stern test for the home side, who would be looking to count on home advantage to survive this one.
In the city of Jos, defending champions, Plateau United, will be hoping to bounce back from their defeat at the weekend in Umuahia, where they were beaten 1-0 by the home side, Abia Warriors.
They will be wary of facing another side with Warriors to their name, this time, El-Kanemi, who surely will prove a difficult proposition for the champions.
Both go into this game in similar form, winning two of their three games so far, with the other ending in a stalemate. But the home side will be favourites for this particular tie, having picked four points from a possible six in El-Kanemi’s last two visits to Jos.
Elsewhere in the league, the Cathedral in the coal city of Enugu plays hosts to the game between 2016 champions, Rangers International and newbies, Kastina United.
It hasn’t been the same Rangers since they won the league for the first time in over three decades two seasons back.
After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, the Flying Antelopes have started this one in similar fashion.
Gbenga Ogunbote side have won just one of their last five games in the league, taking just four points from a possible 15.
However, after two consecutive defeats in the new campaign, they bounced back to winning ways with a 1-0 win against Heartland in Owerri, the only win in that period coming against their newly promoted neighbors.
They host another promoted side in Kastina, who are not different in terms of form, having also won just one of their last five games, including all, but the friendly against MFM FC, their away games during this period.
Both sides are in need of a positive result, and will be hoping to build on their wins against Heartland and Enyimba respectively in match week three.
And according to Rangers’s media officer, Norbert Okolie, the fans are in for a good time as the club has gone ‘past the challenging period’.
“We have gone past the challenging period of our campaign, and the players are well motivated to make our supporters happy on Wednesday [today],” Okeke said in a press release.
In terms of predictions, it’s a difficult one to call, even though one would be tempted to go with the home side. But when was the last time the Flying Antelopes won at the Cathedral?
Well, while you chew on that, I will sit on the defence with this one and go for both teams sharing the spoils.
There are other games across the country, with Port Harcourt based sides, Rivers United and Omoku based 2017 National League champions, Go Round FC in action as well.
Rivers United take a trip to Akure, where they battle their hosts, Sunshine Stars, while it’s the ‘promotion derby’ when Go Round welcome Heartland.
ONTO THE NEXT GAME….
📍 Krisdera Stadium, Omoku
📅 Tomorrow, Jan 24
⏰ 16:00hrs #GORHEA #NPFL18 pic.twitter.com/vCYJbrsf2I
— Heartland FC (@HeartlandFC_ng) January 23, 2018
In Kwara state, John Obuh’s Kwara United, who are the only side still without a point this season, are at home to Wikki Tourist, with Ifeanyi Ubah, the club of top scorer, Godwin Obaje, away at the Agege Stadium, home of CAF Champions League contenders, Mountain of Fires Ministries, MFM FC.
Kwara United v Wikki Tourist
N. Tornadoes v Akwa United
Rangers v Kastina United
Yobe Stars v Lobi Stars
Go Round v Heartland
S. Stars v Rivers United
Enyimba v Nasarawa
K. Pillars v Abia Warriors
Plateau United v El-Kanemi
MFM vs Ifeanyi Ubah