Friday, June 24, 2022

NPFL Preview: Enyimba set for tricky tie in Aba as Akwa United host Remo Stars

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The Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL matchday 33 fixtures will be decided this weekend with mouthwatering action anticipated across the match venues.

Last week, league toppers, Rivers United suffered a lone goal defeat to Wikki Tourists which reduced to seven points their gap ahead of second-placed Plateau United.

Meanwhile, MFM’s chances of beating the drop suffered another blow with the disappointing goalless draw they recorded in Ijebu Ode against fellow relegation battlers, Lobi Stars.

For this weekend, there will be a great deal of attention on the matches in Uyo where Akwa United will be battling against Remo Stars and Aba where Enyimba will host Kwara United. Here are top four picks:

Enyimba vs Kwara United

Enyimba still without Finidi George will be playing a tricky tie against Kwara United and the result from that game could see the two teams swapping spots on the NPFL log.

Enyimba currently has 48 points staying in the sixth position while Kwara United with a point ahead are in the fifth position. It means both sides would take the game seriously if they are to keep alive their slim hopes for continental football next season.

Having met 15 times in the last 12 years, Enyimba have a slight edge over the Harmony boys with seven wins while Kwara United have six victories to their name. Both teams have shared the spoils twice.

Kwara United has never picked up a point in Aba since they have been confronting the People’s Elephants.

It is even worthy to note that Kwara United have never scored a goal in Aba during those previous encounters.

Playing in Aba on Saturday, Kwara United have the arduous task of upturning their poor record against Enyimba; especially away from home

The last time Kwara United picked a point on the road was the 16th of April during a 1-1 clash with Wikki Tourists in Bauchi. Ever since then, the Afonja Warriors have failed to hit the right note in their away games.

They have suffered in the hands of Enugu Rangers, Kano Pillars, Gombe United and even against relegation battlers Lobi Stars in their last four away outings.

The odds are definitely against Kwara United as the Peoples Elephants have been boosted with the arrival of Victor Mbaoma from international duties.

Players to watch

Enyimba: Samuel Stones, Victor Mbaoma and Emeka Obioma

Kwara United: Afeez Nosiru, Samad Kadiri and Jide Fatokun

Positions

Enyimba: sixth, 48 points

Kwara United: fifth, 49 points

Akwa United vs Remo Stars

Similar to the Enyimba against Kwara United game, Akwa United will welcome Remo Stars in a tightly-contested fixture in Uyo on Sunday.

Remo Stars, who returned to winning ways last week will seek another in Uyo.

Both sides haven’t met more than thrice in the league. Apart from their meetings in 2017, Remo Stars had another moment with the Promise Keepers again this season that ended in a lone-goal defeat to the Blue Sky Stars.

In their past matches, Akwa United have always been the dominating side. They have won two and drawn one with Remo in their last three games.

Remo Stars in their last five away outings earned just two points.

On the other hand, Akwa United’s last home game ended in a stalemate between MFM. Their last five home games had them win three and drew two.

Another boost for the Promise Keepers is the return of their midfield trojan, Babatunde Bello, who was previously on international duties for the country.

Players to watch

Akwa United: Babatunde Bello, Wisdom Fenando and Gbadebo Samson

Remo Stars: Ali Isah, Sikiru Alimi and Qudus Akanni

Positions:

Akwa United: Eighth, 45 points

Remo Stars: fourth, 50 points

Shooting Stars vs Plateau United

Shooting Stars will be in a tight corner as they play host to second-placed Plateau United on Sunday at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasigba.

Having been sanctioned by the LMC recently, 3SC will need to tread cautiously at home this time.

Their last home game against Remo Stars ended in a catastrophic draw and the ugly scenes that greeted the game received widespread backlash.

Against the Peace Boys, the Oluyole Warriors, who are avoiding not being dragged to the relegation zone will be gunning for the maximum points

Both teams have met seven times in the last 12 years with Plateau United boasting of four victories while Shooting Stars has one win and they shared spoils twice.

On the last visit of Plateau United to Adamasigba, the Peace Boys went away with a point in a game that ended 1-1 in 2017.

That season, Shooting Stars went to relegation until their recent promotion this season.

Based on the history, Shooting Stars might want to avoid such a scenario in Adamasigba on Sunday.

The Oluyole Warriors’ last five home games saw them win three and draw two.

Meanwhile, Plateau United have not won their last five away games.

Players to watch:

Shooting Stars; Lucky Emmanuel, Malomo Taofeek and Ebuka Anakwe

Plateau United: Jesse Akila, Izuchukwu Chimezie and Mohammed Zulkilfulu

Positions:

Shooting Stars: 13th, 39 points

Plateau United: second, 60 points

Kano Pillars vs Wikki Tourists

Another Northern derby for Kano Pillars against Wikki Tourists as they return to their home ground in Kano after several games in Abuja.

Kano Pillars miraculously jumped off the relegation zone with the crucial victories in three out of the five games played.

Looking at their past records, between Pillars and Wikki, both sides have played 17 times in the last 10 years.

Kano Pillars has won seven times with Wikki Tourists picking six victories and three draws for both sides.

Despite their poor away form, Wikki might not be an easy ride as Derby games often do not take the form to cognisance.

That said, the last time Wikki picked a point against Kano Pillars was in 2019.

Players to watch:

Kano Pillars: Auwula Ali, Mark Daniel and Jerry Alex

Wikki Tourists: Manu Garba, Fuad Ekeleojuoti and Christopher John

Positions:

Kano Pillars: 16th, 38 points

Wikki Tourists: 10th, 44 points


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