A seeming three-horse race is gradually shaping up at the top of the 2019/20 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) which enters Match Day 17 on Sunday.
Plateau United, Lobi Stars and Rivers United are neck-to-neck with 28 points each at the summit of the table with the trio having some interesting match-up billed for this weekend in what is becoming a largely unpredictable league.
The fact that no team has a 100% home record after just eight home games apiece is enough to throw up some interesting permutations ahead of any match day, Match Day 17 inclusive, with the fight for top spot as intense as the fight to beat the drop.
Plateau United went back to the summit in style on Sunday after mercilessly smashing Adamawa United 5-0 in Jos but Abdu Maikaba’s men know quite alright that only a win away to MFM FC in Lagos can guarantee their stay on top of the table for the next week because their leadership rivals have home matches to execute.
Lobi Stars stayed on top for just four days after Dakkada FC held Gbenga Ogunbote’s side to a 0-0 draw in Makurdi last Sunday, their first points dropped at home this season. They however have another home game to negotiate on Sunday, this time against hapless North Central rivals Nasarawa United who remain entangled in relegation mess.
Rivers United are the other team sharing top spot with 28 points alongside Plateau United (and Lobi) and they have a date with Wikki Tourists in Port Harcourt on Sunday. Wikki have claimed four points out of a possible six under new coach Usman Abd’Allah and will be hoping to add more against a United side they have beaten in their last three league meetings. Rivers are however yet to lose at home this term.
There is a top half of the table contest between Akwa United and Heartland FC at the Nest of Champions in Uyo. Both sides have overcome their poor starts to the season and just one point separates them in 7th and 9th respectively. The Promise Keepers have however lost their last two matches by the 0-2 scoreline and must be at their best to have a chance against Heartland who have kept clean sheets in their last three matches.
Kano Pillars are in an unbelievable 11-match unbeaten sequence and they will further stake that in Akure against Sunshine Stars. The Owena Whales on their own are no small fish as well and currently are unbeaten in their last four matches, winning three of those. Kabiru Dogo’s men should provide the sternest threat yet to Sai Masu Guda‘s unbeaten run on Sunday.
Adamawa United are one of just seven clubs to have changed coaches this term but they still keep praying for change in fortune. They face Kwara United at the Pantami Stadium in Gombe in search of their first win in eight outings. Any result other than a win might surely put paid to their survival hopes even before the halfway mark.
Katsina United will host FC Ifeanyiubah in their noisy abode in Katsina, seeking to earn that win that should take them into the top half of the table. Ifeanyiubah will also be hoping to arrest their away hoodoo which has seen them lose their last seven away games in the league.
Sunday’s other game will see Abia Warriors entertain Warri Wolves in Umuahia. Wolves midfielder Mark Daniel will be returning to the club that game him his NPFL bow last season but all eyes will be on Wolves forward Charles Atshimene and Warriors lanky star Lukman Bello.
Match Day 17 action started on Saturday with Dakkada FC beating Jigawa Golden Stars 2-0 at the Nest of Champions, Uyo. Two goals in the second half by Osimaga Duke and Spencer Bassey gave Caleb Esu’s side maximum points which lifted them to fifth provisionally.
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Dakkada FC 2-0 Jigawa Golden Stars
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Abia Warriors v Warri Wolves
Enyimba v Rangers (PP)
Katsina United v FC Ifeanyiubah
Akwa United v Heartland
Sunshine Stars v Kano Pillars
Adamawa United v Kwara United
MFM FC v Plateau United
Rivers United v Wikki Tourists
Lobi Stars v Nasarawa United