NPFL: Derbies and more derbies headline Match Day 15

NPFL: Derbies and more derbies headline Match Day 15

A crunchy Oriental derby, a cognate North Central derby and a grudge North Eastern derby are some of the exciting match-ups that await fans of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) this weekend as the 2021/2022 season nears its midway point.

This season has already served some dramatic ups and downs in results obtained by teams from different rungs of the ladder so much so that the pick of Match Day 15 fixtures in Owerri is now an Oriental Derby of the Strugglers: Heartland against Enyimba.

While Enyimba are 7th and eight points adrift of the leaders, the current run of one win out of the last five games is unacceptable given their lofty standards while for Heartland, the fact that no team in the division have won lesser games than the Naze Millionaires (3) shows why they’re enmeshed in relegation troubles. Saturday’s game will be more than just a derby but a redemption mission for new Heartland coach Erasmus Onu Ollotah and under-fire Enyimba coach Finidi George.

The North Central derby in Ilorin between Kwara United and Niger Tornadoes brings old friends and foes back together. No fewer than five players in the current Tornadoes set-up joined from Kwara United while head coach Abubakar Bala (a former United coach) is an Ilorin man through and through. While United are currently in the top six, Tornadoes are 15th on the log, knowing that a positive result in this derby will advance their ambition to stay afloat till the end of the season.

One derby which promises lots of fireworks on Sunday is the North East derby of the equals between Wikki Tourists and Gombe United in Bauchi. The two neighbouring teams have plenty in common; same number of points after 14 games, identical mammoth crowd attendance in home games and head coaches of Ilorin upbringing – Kabiru Dogo and Zubairu Aliyu respectively.

A South Western derby also takes place in Lagos where bottom of the table MFM FC – who seem to have commenced another bid for escape – play hosts to Sunshine Stars at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere. Having secured four points from their last two games, MFM will hope to garner more against a very obstinate Sunshine Stars side led by the cerebral Deji Ayeni.

Dakkada FC who have surprisingly sloped down to 19th on the log in spite of a decent start to the season will host Lobi Stars in Uyo in search of early reprieve from the shackles of troubled waters while Abia Warriors who are now above the dreaded zone only on goals difference know they must end their four-game winless run against Shooting Stars should they hope to further steer clear of the red zone.

While the strugglers continue in their struggle to find solace, teams in the top half will also strive for loftier positions this weekend. League leaders Rivers United have a chance to widen the gap at the summit when they host Nasarawa United in Port Harcourt on Saturday while Remo Stars will hope to end their terrible run of three losses on the bounce when Katsina United (yet to get a point away from home this season) come calling to Ikenne on same day.

Also on Saturday, third place Rangers International will entertain bad travellers Kano Pillars. Pillars coach Salisu Yusuf knows Rangers inside out and will hope to put the knowledge into good use when both sides face in Nnewi, a ground on which Rangers have not particularly been convincing this term.

In a game with ramifications at the top of the table, Plateau United, second on the log will host fifth place Akwa United in Jos. Fidelis Ilechukwu’s Plateau United are unbeaten in their last six games, winning five of those to set up a two-horse race with Rivers United while reigning Kings Akwa United have won their last two games after the dismissal of head coach Kennedy Boboye. A top tier fixture await on Sunday.

Match Day 15 Fixtures

Heartland vs Enyimba
Rivers United vs Nasarawa United
Abia Warriors vs Shooting Stars
Rangers vs Kano Pillars
Remo Stars vs Katsina United
Dakkada FC vs Lobi Stars

Plateau United vs Akwa United
Kwara United vs Niger Tornadoes
Wikki Tourists vs Gombe United
MFM FC vs Sunshine Stars

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