By George Akpayen

The Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) returns with a full cast of fixtures this Sunday and it comes with mouthwatering matches involving clubs in the race for survival, title and continental places.

Table-toppers Rangers are the only top-four sides that will play at home this matchweek when they play hosts to Bayelsa United at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu. Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men hold the best form guide in the last six matches alongside Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) going into this matchday (W4 L2). In the reverse fixture Bayelsa United wo 2-0 through goals from Kehinde Malik Lawal and Ekeson Okorie but the Yenagoa club have failed to avoid defeat in their last three visits to Enugu though have scored on all three occasions.

Fourth-placed 3SC dropped points against Katsina United the last time out in Ibadan when they played out a 1-1 draw. Gbenga Ogunbote will however lead 3SC to the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium without their influential captain Taofeek Malomo who is suspended for this fixture. Andrew Idoko is the man to watch in this contest as he has scored in all of Katsina United’s last four home matches in which they have won.

Chasing a first title, Remo Stars will make a trip to Ilorin to face Kwara United, who are undefeated in their last five matches (W2 D3). The Sky Blue Stars who currently sit in second place with 56 points, one behind leaders Rangers, will be relieved that they will go head-to-head with Kwara United without their top scorer this season, Emmanuel Ogbole who is suspended. Last time out, Olamilekan Adedayo and Samad Kadiri scored to ensure Remo Stars won 2-0.

Titleholders Enyimba start the matchday in third place and four points behind the leaders. The People’s Elephant will begin life without Finidi George in the saddle after he got appointed as Nigeria’s head coach by the country’s football federation. His assistant, Yemi Olanrewaju Daniel steps in as head coach till the end of this campaign. They make the short trip to city rivals, Abia Warriors for the Abia Derby. Enyimba have dominated the head-to-head of this derby, losing just once in their last 10 league meetings (W8 D1 L1). When both teams met this season, Abia Warriors lost 1-2 after Chimezie Njoku managed a late goal for them after their more decorated opponents took a two-goal lead through Eze Ekwutoziam and Chidiebere Nnachi.

At the other end of the standings, the bottom-two sides, Heartland and Gombe United go head-to-head at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri. Already NPFL pundits have written off both clubs’ chances of beating the drop. Heartland are 10 points below safety while Gombe United are 14 points adrift. In the first meeting this season, Gombe United defeated Heartland 2-0 with Umar Abba and Chijioke Alaekwe scoring the goals. The Savannah Scorpions will head to Owerri undefeated in their last five league meetings with Heartland (W3 D2) including drawing in their last two visits. It will be another wonder of the World if both teams survive relegation in the competitive NPFL.

Champions in 2021, Akwa United, find themselves below the red line and in trouble of being relegated. They play on the road at Lobi Stars where they have failed to avoid defeat in their last 12 trips. The Promise Keepers have a Herculean task at hand but will draw inspiration from the fact that Lobi have struggled in their last seven NPFL games, winning just once (W1 D3 L3). Akwa United head coach, Mohammed Baba Ganaru, who worked with Lobi last season before leaving, is confident of helping the Uyo club avoid the drop.

“We are confident going to face them (Lobi Stars),” began Baba Ganaru. “I have worked with Lobi so I know them and about Akwa (United) going on relegation that won’t happen. We will play in the NPFL next season, I can assure the fans that.”

Four other matches will also take place on Sunday in the NPFL including an early kickoff in Jos where Plateau United play hosts to Niger Tornadoes.


Rangers v Bayelsa United

Rivers United v Sporting Lagos

Abia Warriors v Enyimba (Live on StarTimes & NPFL-Live)

Katsina United v 3SC (Live on NPFL-Live)

Sunshine Stars v Bendel Insurance

Heartland v Gombe United (Live on NPFL-Live)

Lobi Stars v Akwa United

Kano Pillars v Doma United (Live on NPFL-Live)

Kwara United v Remo Stars (Live on NPFL-Live)

Plateau United v Niger Tornadoes (Live on StarTimes & NPFL-Live)

David NPFL
May 25, 2024
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