We are down to four games before we call it a wrap in the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League season. League leaders Plateau United have in recent weeks tightened their grip on their leadership position while basement side Remo Stars have all but sealed their demotion to the second tier.
Match Day 35 serves us with another installment of exciting duels on paper and with the best players in the league in action on Saturday for the Super Eagles B, clubs might be robbed of some of their dependable assets for the second week running. Here is a look at the fixtures:
Rangers Int’l (13) vs Kastsina United (12)
The reigning champions have been enmeshed in an obnoxious battle for survival this season and a victory against Bauldwin Bazuaye’s United on Sunday will do them a world of good ahead of next weekend’s visit to already relegated Remo Stars.
Rangers’ top scorer in the second stanza, Ifeanyi George as well as wing back Osas Okoro are away with the CHAN Eagles but they will be able to call on Orji Kalu Okogbue who is suspended for Saturday’s game. United drew their last away game at Rivers United and with Chinedu Udechukwu and Destiny Ashadi back and scoring, they will fancy their chance at The Cathedral.
Wikki Tourists (16) vs Remo Stars (20)
In the past four match days, games against Remo Stars have helped struggling teams ease their relegation worries but while a victory for Wikki on Sunday may not be enough in the end, they must win first.
Wikki have failed to win any of their last two home games in all competitions and Sunday’s game will be played behind closed doors at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium after crowd disturbances in their last league game (in Bauchi) against Rangers.
Rivers United (14) vs Enyimba (4)
United have a goalkeeping crisis ahead of Sunday’s game. Most trusted hand Sunday Rotimi is suspended for card accumulation and with Abiodun Akande out for the remainder of the season, former Enyimba goalkeeper Femi Thomas is the only assured hand available for the hosts.
Rivers United have won just one of their last 4 home games in all competitions and any slip against the former Champions will spell further doom for them. Kelly Kester and Chinonso Okonkwo, two players that excelled in Port Harcourt in recent seasons will be at the heart of whatever Enyimba hope to achieve on Sunday in the absence of their topscorer Mfon Udoh.
ABS FC (18) vs Plateau United (1)
Hosts ABS have a big task of ending the Champions-Elect’s 5-match unbeaten run if they hope to nourish their dying survival hopes. Henry Makinwa’s men convincingly won their last two home games but Kennedy Boboye’s Plateau presents a difference challenge.
United are without efficient midfielder Jimmy Ambrose due to suspension and captain Elisha Golbe who has been called to the national camp. But the league leaders remain the best team on the road and will be relying on the form of Ibeh Johnson who has scored in three games on the trot for Sunday’s game.
MFM FC (2) vs Gombe United (19)
Fidelis Ilechukwu’s MFM are depleted for Sunday’s visit of doomed Gombe United. Attackers Stephen Odey and Sikiru Olatunbosun once again miss out due to national team engagement but they now have to cope with the suspension of Cameroonian Tchato Grischard for Sunday’s game as well.
United have won just one of their last five games but Manu Garba’s men have the capability of acting as spoilers for the Church Boys.
Kano Pillars (8) vs Abia Warriors (11)
Pillars have still not given up hopes of finishing third and this game will show how serious they are with their quest. Having failed to win their last three games, another slip against Warriors will effectively end their hopes.
Pillars are still without striker Junior Lokosa who completes his 3-match ban but may gamble on club legend Rabiu Ali who plays for the Super Eagles 24 hours earlier on the same pitch. Warriors continue life without their top scorer Sunday Adetunji who is ruled out for the rest of the season due to fractured arm.
Shooting Stars (17) vs Nasarawa United (6)
3SC have been drifting in and out of the red zone for the past six match days and Sunday’s game in Ibadan provides them with a chance to move out once again. The Oluyole Warriors have won their last five home games and will be hoping to repeat same trick over the visitors on Sunday.
Lobi Stars (11) vs El-Kanemi Warriors (7)
Lobi’s form has dipped in recent weeks, failing to win their last five games which include a scandalous defeat to Abia Warriors in their last home game. In El-Kanemi however, they face one of the poorest sides on the road this season.
Lobi will be without the in-form Kingsley Eduwo who is with the CHAN Eagles while El-Kanemi will equally be unable to call on their topscorer Mathias Samuel for the same reason.
FC Ifeanyiubah (5) vs Akwa United (3)
Ifeanyiubah will hope to narrow the gap between them and United, in the final continental spot when both sides meet in Ozubulu near Nnewi on Sunday.
The Anambra Warriors must however do so without CHAN Eagles goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa and their topscorer Godwin Obaje who is suspended for the game. But in Pascal Seka, they have a forward who knows how to score against United having done so in their last two league meetings.
Akwa United trounced Tornadoes last weekend without their CHAN Eagles quartet of Alhassan Ibrahim, Aremu Afeez, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Emmanuel Ariwachukwu. It remains to be seen though if they have enough fire power to withstand Sunday’s opponents or they may choose to fly down their quartet from Kano after Saturday’s game.
Sunshine Stars (15) vs Niger Tornadoes (9)
Duke Udi’s men are six places behind Tornadoes but just three points behind them. That is how close it is at the lower rung of the NPFL ladder. In fact, victory for Sunshine in Ijebu-Ode on Sunday will ensure they leapfrog Tornadoes on the table.
Sunshine will still be without midfielder Dayo Ojo who completes his 3-match ban but will welcome back captain Sunday Abe from suspension.