The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) continues this Sunday with two big matches in extreme ends of the country as MFM FC play hosts to seven-time champions Enyimba at the Agege Stadium in Lagos and in Maiduguri, Akwa United face a test for their title credentials against El-Kanemi Warriors.
The matches in Lagos and Maiduguri are top-of-the-table contests in Groups A and B of the division, and have all the trappings to produce scintillating moments.
If there is a team Group A leaders MFM would wish to avoid in the top division since they got promoted in 2016, it would be Enyimba. Fidelis Ilechukwu and his men have never won a league game against the People’s Elephant – managing four draws in all previous six meetings including losing the last two on the road.
On their two previous meetings in this same fixtures, both teams have failed to score – thereby ending those head-to-head contests scoreless.
However, this match will mark a return for two former MFM stars Onuwa Chukwuka and Stanley Okorom. The former has played more from the bench while right-back Okorom has had a decent run in Usman Abd’Allah’s side so far.
With a gang of youngsters in his setup, Ilechukwu will hope they can extend their perfect run at home to seven straight wins against a club they have never beaten in the NPFL.
More than 1,500 kilometres away from the epicentre of Lagos where MFM and Enyimba will face off in a top-spot battle, another top-two clash takes place in the northeast town of Maiduguri when El-Kanemi Warriors play hosts to high-flying Akwa United.
Rafael Everton’s Akwa United are the in-form team going into this matchday with eight matches unbeaten. Now that looks under threat from Mohammed BabaGanaru’s side who against all odds claimed a surprise win at the Nest of Champions in Uyo and could now do a rare double on a side most pundits have tipped among favourites for the league title this season.
Despite El-Kanemi’s near invincibility at their Maiduguri stadium in the past two seasons, a handful of teams have braved the odds to leave the northeast with results including Gombe United this season. However no team have been able to win in Maiduguri since El-Kanemi returned there just over two years ago.
Interestingly, Akwa United’s previous trips to Kano Pillars and Gombe United, clubs in the north, have seen them claim a point each and Everton’s men known for playing from the front would want to avoid the Maiduguri side pulling off a double that could see the Promise Keepers slide off the top-three positions in Group B depending on results elsewhere.
With the contests among the top-two teams in Groups A and B drawing most of the focus, one match could well earn its own share of attraction when it holds at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba. Delta Force who have taken ownership of Kada City and changed name will play Go Round in the first NPFL game to hold at the Asaba stadium and also the first night game of this season (6pm kickoff).
Somehow both sides have managed to keep their heads above the drop zone, and will look to ensure that they keep their status in the NPFL for yet another season. The first meeting in Omoku finished 0-0.
There are nine other matches that will hold simultaneously from 4pm this Sunday. Bendel Insurance, still struggling to adjust to life in the top division after more than a decade in the second tier, will play hosts to Wikki Tourists who have won back to back matches.
With just two wins in 11 matches, Monday Odigie knows his men have to do better in upcoming fixtures starting at home against Wikki to ensure they remain in the NPFL for another season.
It will be a clash of Group A bottom-four sides in Sagamu when Remo Stars face Rivers United with both teams desperate to ease their worries of dropping into the lower division, the Nigeria National League (NNL) while basement boys Niger Tornadoes will aim to revive their bid of survival when they face Rangers International in Minna.
Lobi Stars after a disappointing midweek of dropping points at home take their ambition of a top-three finish to Katsina United who have only dropped two points at home this term and Bala Abubakar will lead Kwara United to Akure where they face Sunshine Stars.
Oriental sides Abia Warriors, FC Ifeanyiubah and Heartland will play at home against Nasarawa United, Plateau United and Kano Pillars respectively in Group B.
There will be a contest of bottom-two sides in Group B when Gombe United play hosts to Yobe Desert Stars at the Pantami Stadium.
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