The race to the NPFL crown gets tighter as the league enters Match Day 33 this weekend. Second placed MFM’s first away win of the second stanza at Remo Stars last weekend took them to within three points of league leaders, Plateau United and with genuine hopes of closing the gap this weekend.
Battle to avoid the dreaded drop is also as intense as that for continental places as time run out on the twenty teams to fulfil their pre-season ambitions. This weekend’’s round of matches include some very tricky fixtures between teams fighting for the same cause. Here is a snick preview:
The title race
Plateau United make a trip to former Champions Kano Pillars, knowing that they are no longer as comfortable as they used to be on the log having seen their 5-point gap cut to three last weekend.
Their closest challengers MFM also have a difficult home game against Enyimba, a team they have never beaten in the league. All previous meetings between both sides have ended in draws including the reverse fixture when Stephen Odey scored in Calabar.
Enyimba are still aspiring for the title despite a seemingly unassailable eight points separating them from Plateau United and will provide some stern test for Fidelis Ilechukwu’s MFM on Sunday.
With Plateau and MFM seemingly locked in a 2-horse race for the title, the race for the final continental position is also as intense as it can be. Akwa United who have remained in 3rd spot for four match days in a row will complete their three successive away schedule with a visit to Sunshine Stars in Ijebu-Ode.
Abdu Maikaba’s men can however remain in third spot even if they fail to win in Ijebu should their nearest challengers who all face daunting away trips fail to better their result. 4th placed Enyimba are at MFM while 5th placed El-Kanemi travel to Lokoja for a date with Niger Tornadoes who are not totally safe from relegation.
The two other teams in the continental category, FC Ifeanyiubah and Nasarawa United go head to head in Nnewi on Sunday with Ifeanyiubah who have failed to win their last three matches hoping to get one over their bogey side. They have only won once in their last five league outings against Nasarawa United.
There is no end to the intrigues at the lower rung of the table. While Remo Stars took an enormous step towards confirming their relegation after last weekend’s home loss, the remaining three spots are still there for the taking.
All four teams in the relegation zone will come up against each other as basement side Remo Stars visit 18th placed ABS in Ilorin on Sunday while Shooting Stars, currently occupying the last relegation spot will hope to swim out when they host second from bottom Gombe United in Ibadan.
Rivers United who have been hovering over the red zone will host Katsina United in Port Harcourt on Monday with a victory for the home team likely to drag Katsina to the red zone for the first time in the second stanza of the season. The last fixture sees a battle of two teams that were in the top three last season, Wikki Tourists and Rangers as they both fight to beat the dreaded drop less than a year after their success.