Midweek games return, as top guns look to extend lead


Midweek games return on Wednesday in the Nigeria Professional Football League, and based on fixtures and form, fans shouldn't expect radical changes at the top of the standings.

Shooting Stars VS Kano Pillars
Two established Nigerian league teams, Shooting Stars and Kano Pillars, trade tackles in Ibadan, an interesting matchup which could see the result go either way.

The two teams have a combined total of nine league trophies, making them some of the most successful teams in the league's history.

Shooting Stars earned maximum points at the weekend in the southwest derby against Sunshine Stars, but face an entirely different opposition in Kano Pillars, who are 12th in the standings and five points ahead of this opposition.

Beach soccer star Abu Azeez made his debut for Shooting Stars on Sunday, coming on as a substitute. He could be entrusted with a start in his second league appearance, as the Oluyole Warriors aim to grind out a result to lift them from their second-from-bottom position.

Abia Warriors VS Remo Stars
Umuahia comes alive on Wednesday, when home team Abia Warriors take on bottom-of-the-table Remo Stars. The visiting team will require more than a miracle to earn a result on a ground that has become a fortress for the Warriors.

Abia Warriors, who are 10th going into the game, have been bullish on home turf this season, recently stunning Enugu Rangers with a 4-0 bashing at the Umuahia Township Stadium.

Remo Stars will hope to create an upset, and could be basking in the euphoria of a 2-0 home success against Gombe United at the weekend.

Sunday Adetunji, striker for Abia Warriors, is in the golden boot race, three goals adrift of leader Stephen Odey, who is on 14 goals. The frontman could fancy netting in this game to lift his team from its present mid-table position and closing the gap at the top of the goal chart.

El-Kanemi Warriors VS Enugu Rangers
High flying El-Kanemi Warriors are well on course for a 25th successive league win at home, when they trade tackles with crestfallen defending champions, Enugu Rangers in Maiduguri.

El-Kanemi Warriors have been one of the top flyers in the league this term, presently occupying third on the log. They shouldn't lose any sleep against a struggling Enugu Rangers team who are battling for survival in 16th place, an unenviable position for league champions.

The home team conceded their first goal on home turf this season in week 21 against Rivers United, Onoriode Odah the goal scorer on that occasion.

Given the recent benevolence of the Enugu Rangers backline, which has conceded nine goals in its last five league outings, Mathias Samuel could well be on course to net his 12th league goal of the season for El-Kanemi Warriors.

Gombe United VS Enyimba

Strugglers Gombe United's survival prospects don't get any easier when they welcome seven-time league champions Enyimba to the Pantami Stadium.

Head coach Manu Garba needs all the home wins he can grind out in the upcoming games, with his future at the club on the line as management could be ready to issue the FIFA U-17 World Cup-winning coach with the sack.

Enyimba haven't done badly in the second round, winning two out of three games, one of those victories achieved on the road at Remo Stars. The Gbenga Ogunbote-coached team started out slowly this term but have gradually worked their way back into the reckoning, into fifth place.

An away win could see Enyimba move into a top four position, which means Gombe United could further sink down the table into 19th place. If the reverse situation occurs, Gombe could climb just outside the drop zone, with results elsewhere going their way, and Enyimba could drop down closer to the mid table point.

Ifeanyi Ubah FC VS ABS FC
FC Ifeanyi Ubah, a team which boasts one of the best attacks in the league, welcomes ABS FC to Nnewi in the clash of the privately sponsored clubs.

The home team is on course to earn a continental ticket at the end of the season, presently in fourth place. FC Ifeanyi Ubah have won all but one of their home league games this season, while ABS FC haven't recorded an away league win to date, two away draws their best results on the road.

Lobi Stars VS MFM FC
Lobi Stars will hope their recent good league form continues on Wednesday at home against second placed MFM FC at the Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi.

Despite the minor setback of losing away from home on Sunday against Kano Pillars, Lobi Stars remain in seventh place and could break into the top four if FC Ifeanyi Ubah fail to win in Nnewi.

Kingsley Eduwo has been in fine form for Lobi Stars this season, netting eight goals, and the skilful forward could possibly get into double figures against an MFM FC defence that is renowned for struggling to keep clean sheets on the road.

Nasarawa United VS Katsina United
Ninth-placed Nasarawa United should complete a 'dream' week when they host Katsina United at the Lafia Township Stadium, in a game that should have one likely winner based on permutations and form.

Only on Sunday in Enugu, Nasarawa United almost ran away with maximum points against the champions but were pegged back with 10 minutes of regulation time left to play.

Katsina United, 13th in the standings, haven't been big on away results this term, apparently still learning to find their feet in the top-flight since their promotion.

Niger Tornadoes VS Rivers United
Niger Tornadoes and Rivers United clash at the Confluence Stadium in Lokoja, a home game Tornadoes should feel confident of winning.

Rivers United, fresh from their latest continental assignment away from home in Uganda, have a difficult task in this game. Stanley Eguma has been accused in the media of setting up his team defensively in away games, a trend which will likely continue on Wednesday.

The visiting team will likely have to make do without the services of experienced goalkeeper Rotimi Sunday, who got injured in Uganda on the weekend.

Abiodun Akande should be the designated replacement, and the shot stopper will have to be at his best to keep out the rampaging Ebenezer Odeyemi.

Sunshine Stars VS Plateau United
Kennedy Boboye returns to familiar hunting ground with surprise leaders Plateau United when they travel to Akure, to be guests of Sunshine Stars.

Coach Boboye was in charge of Sunshine Stars two seasons ago, transforming them into the most exciting team in the league, a period which coincided with majority of their players making it into the senior national team.

Sunshine Stars, which has the second-worst defence in the league, have an uphill task coming against a Plateau United team which boosts the best attack this season, with 29 goals scored and counting.

Considering the change of guard at the helm of coaching at Sunshine Stars, the home team might just secure maximum points, which would take them out of the bottom four.