NPFL Matchday 18 Preview: Plateau United, Rivers United lock horns as Heartland battle Sunshine Stars

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Nigeria Professional Football League will enter Matchday 18 this weekend across the country and despite the fact that Enyimba and Enugu Rangers will be involved in CAF Confederation Cup games where they have games against San Pedro of Ivory Coast and Al Masry of Egypt and their league games have been postponed, the fixtures have thrown up interesting picks.

Dasportstainment247.com has done a rundown of the preview of the games to keep the fans and purists alike fantasizing about the match venue they intend going to watch the best of the Nigerian league

FC IfeanyiUbah vs Akwa United

FC IfeanyiUbah will put their impressive home record to test on Sunday when they host Akwa United at the revered Ifeanyi Ubah Stadium, Nnewi.

The Anambra Warriors have picked 22 points out of the maximum 24 from the eight games they have played before their fans and it is a major respite for Ifeanyi Okagbue’s men whose form has been abysmal away with a paltry one point from maximum 27. They will hope for a possible outcome after a close 1-0 loss Katsina United last weekend.

The fixture ended 2-1 in favour of the home team last season but Akwa United’s results have improved since Kennedy Boboye replaced John Obuh at the dugout with the only major blip being the 2-0 home loss to Kwara United. The Promise Keepers quickly doused the likelihood of any unrest in their fold with the 3-1 victory over Heartland in Uyo the last time out.

Heartland vs Sunshine Stars

The Naze Millionaires will seek a quick fix it to their two-game winless streak coming after they defeated Enyimba 2-0 in Aba recently as they host the Owena Whales at the Okigwe Township Stadium, Okigwe this weekend.

Heartland have dominated this fixture in the last five games involving both games with Sunshine Stars breaking that spell with a 2-1 home win in 2018 which was the only win they had from those games as against the Owerri side who won two and drew two from the four matches played before the Akure tie in 2018.

Heartland found it difficult to win their games at the beginning of the season but the massive overhaul of the playing personnel for more experienced and hungry seeking players have brought improved performances and it has renewed the fans conviction that Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men can pick a continental ticket at the end of the season.

The five times league champions are currently 11th on the league table with 22 points from 17 games while Sunshine Stars who came second in the league once in 2011 are fourth with 27 points from the same number of games.

Jigawa Golden Stars vs Lobi Stars

NPFL debutants, Jigawa Golden Stars will hope for their fifth win of the season when they host Lobi Stars at their adopted home ground, Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano on Sunday.

With a miserly 14 points from 16 games, JIgawa Golden Stars will not find it easy grinding out the maximum points against league pacesetters, Lobi Stars who are among the top three teams with outstanding away results having picked nine points on their travels and are presently atop the NPFL table with 31 points from 16 games despite still having a game at hand on their main rivals-Plateau United and Rivers United.

Jigawa Golden Stars did surprise Kano Pillars and FC IfeanyiUbah but can they create a massive upset against Lobi Stars?

Kano Pillars vs Adamawa United

Kano Pillars will stretch their unbeaten record to 14 games if they avoid a defeat against Adamawa United in Kano on Sunday after they got a valuable 2-2 draw against Sunshine Stars in Akure.

Sai Masu Gida were last beaten 1-0 during a Matchday Four tie against Jigawa Golden Stars in Kano and they have managed to remain invincible thereafter. They are up against the league newcomers who are fighting for their survival in the topflight.

It is both teams’ first time of meeting in the NPFL and Kano Pillars who are 12th on the league table with 21 points from 15 games are expected to easily pick a home win. Adamawa United may have to look elsewhere to add to their 14 points tally from 17 fixtures.

Adamawa United pipped Kwara United 2-1 in Gombe last weekend after they came back from a goal down but they need to be more decisive and play the 90 minutes without any noticeable errors if they are to get a share of the spoils in Kano.

Kwara United- MFM

Both Kwara United and MFM are locked at two wins apiece in the last four games they have played together. 

The Harmony Boys pipped the Olukoya Boys 1-0 in Ilorin in April last year as a reprisal to their 2-0 loss to the same team in Lagos in January 2019. 

Kwara United were unable to sustain their early lead in Gombe last weekend as they went down 2-1 against Adamawa United while MFM were held to a goalless draw in Lagos by Plateau United. Both teams will be desperate for the points to improve their league positions.

Tony Bolus’ men are ninth in the topflight table with 23 points from 16 games while Kwara United with Abdullahi Biffo in charge are hovering close to the relegation zone in 15th spot with 17 points from 16 games also. 

Plateau United vs Rivers United

This is undoubtedly the star fixture of the weekend league matches which sees the second and third teams on the league table locking horns at the New Jos Road Stadium, Jos.

Plateau United arrested their dip in form from their away games with a goalless draw against MFM in Lagos but Rivers United didn’t have the benefit of home comfort after Wikki Tourists earned an away point off them in Port Harcourt.

The Peace Boys will return to the top of the league table if they beat the Pride of Rivers and Lobi Stars are unable to scoop the three points against Jigawa Golden Stars in Kano. Abdu Maikaba’s men will also open up a three-point gap between them and Rivers United if they are able to win the game.

Rivers United will fancy their chances having picked a point in Jos in 2017 season but they were pinned 2-0 at the same stadium in their last visit to the Tin City State two years ago.

Wikki Tourists vs Dakkada

Wikki Tourists have suddenly regained their groove since the appointment of Abdu Maikaba and have gone three games unbeaten since their home defeat to Sunshine Stars early January.

They face a stiff opposition in newly promoted Dakkada FC who have only lost one away game (against MFM) since the season started from eight games. The Uyo side are the team with the beat away record with nine points from a possible 24. They have refused to yield in their trips to Okigwe (Heartland), Enugu (Rangers), Asaba (Delta Force), Umuahia (Abia Warriors), Katsina (Katsina United), Akure (Sunshine Stars) and Makurdi (Lobi Stars) where they grabbed important away points.

Wikki Tourists are undergoing a transition and they know that only a home win against premier league new-boys will help push them further the league table than their present 13th spot with 21 points while Dakkada who are presently in the fifth position with 27 points from 17 matches will want to break into the top three with second away win of the season in Bauchi.

Nasarawa United vs Abia Warriors

Can Nasarawa United continue their dominance over Abia Warriors when both teams slug it out at the Lafia Stadium this weekend again?

The Solid Miners have won the last three games of this tie with the last being their 1-0 away win in Umuahia on March 31st 2019. Nasarawa United are in dire need of a victory having returned to the bottom of the league table after they were beaten 2-1 narrowly by next-door neighbours, Lobi Stars last weekend.

Nasarawa United have rejigged their squad during the recent transfer window in the aftermath of their poor start to the season but it is yet to see the effect of these signings with three losses in their last five games.

Abia Warriors have been unpredictable this season despite occupying the seventh spot on the league table with 25 points from 17 games having only garnered three points from the eight games that they have played away from Umuahia.     

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