NPFL: PLATEAU UNITED, MFM GO FOR VICTORY… AGAIN

BY MUYIWA AKINTUNDE

In preparation for the usage of Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo by the Super Eagles on Wednesday, the Matchday 2 of the Nigeria Professional Football League will not hold on that ground this Sunday.

As a result, newly promoted Akwa Starlets have their fixture against four-time champions Kano Pillars delayed till Thursday, while that of Akwa United against Abia Warriors will be staged at a later date.

Eight centres will come alive with four teams aiming at continuing from where they started the season last Sunday. Plateau United, Wikki Tourists, FC Ifeanyi Ubah and MFM all won on Matchday 1, while Abia Warriors, who also recorded victory, are not on show this weekend.

Leading the field on account of superior goals, Plateau United will be at the 15,000-capacity Hadejia Stadium in Dutse playing against Jigawa Golden Stars, who lost away to Wikki Tourists 1-2 after drawing the first blood. Plateau United, at the New Jos Stadium, overwhelmed former champions Lobi Stars 3-1 on Matchday 1.

There has been no previous encounter in the top flight between Plateau United and Jigawa Golden Stars as the latter are having their debut season in the NPFL.

Wikki Tourists travel about 350 kilometres to Lafia to take on Nasarawa United, whose opening day match against Enyimba was postponed to enable their hosts honour continental engagement.

Both sides were separated last season when the league was broken into two groups. Nasarawa United however won this fixture 1-0 in the 2017/18 season, while the reverse game never took place following the abrupt end to that season.

In Lagos, it will be the clash of two teams who came out with maximum points on the opening day. Memories of the last match of the 2015/16 season will be rekindled as MFM host FC Ifeanyi Ubah.

On the last day of that season, MFM needed to match Warri Wolves point for point to stay afloat.

It was MFM’s first season in the NPFL and they were contesting for survival with the club of the Federation President! Everything – including officiating – was thrown into the simultaneous matches in Lagos and Warri, but MFM eventually triumphed 1-0 against FC Ifeanyi Ubah, the same scoreline Warri Wolves recorded against already relegated Lagos team Ikorodu United.

Since that unforgettable episode, MFM have won three home matches against FC Ifeanyi Ubah, including at Nnewi in the 2017/18 season, while the Anambra Warriors walloped the Olukoya Boys 4-0 in Nnewi in the 2016/17 season.

In Makurdi, 2017/18 champions Lobi Stars will seek to make amends for last Sunday’s defeat in Jos as they host Delta Force. It will be their first meeting in the NPFL. Delta Force (formerly Kada City) were promoted last season but ended up in separate group with Lobi Stars and never got to the Championship playoff phase unlike their the Stars.

Warri Wolves were forced to 1-1 outcome by Akwa United last Sunday at home, and the Amaju Pinnick side visit Akure Township Stadium to chase points against Sunshine Stars, who rested on Matchday 1.

This fixture last happened in the 2015/16 season when Warri Wolves got relegated. It ended 1-0 in favour of the Akure Gunners, who would later be defeated 0-2 in the return leg.

Rivers United host Heartland in Port Harcourt after playing goalless at Kano Pillars last Sunday.

United and Heartland were in separate groups last season. In the 2017/18 season, United won 2-0 at home, while the reverse fixture got caught up in the crisis that rocked the league.

Enyimba open their title defence with a trip to Katsina. Katsina United are still nursing the injuries of their 0-2 loss to Abia Warriors on Matchday 1 and will strive to repeat last season’s 2-1 triumph over the People’s Elephant at the same ground.

Rangers, who, like Enyimba, are awaiting their CAF Confederation Cup group opponents later today, visit newly promoted Adamawa United, who lost to FC Ifeanyi Ubah 0-1 in Nnewi last week.

MATCHDAY 2 FIXTURES:

  • Sunshine Stars v Warri Wolves
  • Jigawa Golden Stars v Plateau United
  • Lobi Stars v Delta Force
  • Rivers United v Heartland
  • MFM v FC Ifeanyi Ubah
  • Katsina United v Enyimba
  • Adamawa United v Rangers
  • Nasarawa United v Wikki Tourists

Thursday

  • Akwa Starlets v Kano Pillars
  • Akwa United v Abia Warriors (Date to be decided)