MFM dare Sunshine Stars in derby
By Idowu Bakare
Two of the top teams in the southwest – Sunshine Stars and MFM FC – will face off in a derby at the Akure Stadium on Wednesday.
Both teams come into the game on the back of unconvincing performances at the weekend – with Duke Udi’s men suffering a 2-1 defeat away at Enyimba, while Lobi Stars became the first team to take points off MFM at Agege Stadium this season.
After a solid start to the season in their first six games, Sunshine Stars have gone from bad to worse in recent weeks. The Owena Waves are winless in their last three games and are now bottom of the log after the League Management Company (LMC) deducted three points from their total points tally for breaching the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Framework and Rules.
In addition, only seven of the 14 newly recruited players are eligible to feature in this game owing to litigation issues that have not been fully resolved.
Nevertheless, the Akure-based side have one outstanding match and can use this encounter to galvanise their campaign – if they turn up against the CAF Champions League campaigners MFM.
The hosts currently sit in bottom place on the NPFL table with nine points.
Fidelis Ilechuwku’s squad were unimpressive in front of goal in their goalless draw against Lobi Stars – with attackers Sikiru Olatunbosun, Waheed Adebayo and Jesse Akila firing blanks.
Ilechukwu’s modus operandi in the league over the years has been to keep some of his best legs fresh for home games, making the Agege Stadium their fortress and giving young and talented players the platform to gain experience and hone their skills. This method has so far worked for him as the Olukoya Boys finished second to qualify for the CAF Champions League last season.
The church-owned club are also expected to be buoyed by the points they picked in last season’s southwest derbies – winning away at Sunshine Stars and Remo Stars.
Ilechukwu and his team will definitely be keen to consolidate on that record, in order to boost his team’s confidence ahead of a tough week – where they host MC Alger in the CAF Champions League.
The Olukoya Boys currently occupy 12th position in the league standings with 13 points from nine matches. They sit three points clear of the drop zone and three points below third-placed Akwa United.
STAR TO WATCH
Abiodun Joseph (Sunshine Stars): There will be a lot of focus on Joseph primarily because he recently earned a spot in the Flying Eagles 28-man squad for the Africa U20 Nations Cup qualifying series.
The striker loves to cut in from the left flank, but is equally at ease causing havoc down the centre or switching wings, and the budding partnership he is forming with his teammates will pose a constant danger.
The attacker relishes a challenge and causing havoc on MFM will be right up his alley.
Austin Opara (MFM): MFM captain Austine Opara is regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the NPFL owing to his consistent performances for the Olukoya Boys since their promotion to the top flight.
The reliable defender is a warrior at the heart of MFM’s defence and he will be tasked with keeping Sunshine’s attackers under wraps.
Stephen Odey scored the lone goal as MFM FC forced a bitter pill down the throat of Sunshine Stars with a 1-0 win when the two sides clashed at the Akure Stadium last season.
Both teams will be meeting for the fifth time in the NPFL this midweek.
MFM win: 3
Sunshine Stars win: 1
28/06/17: MFM 2-1 Sunshine Stars
05/02/17: Sunshine 0-1 Stars – MFM
26/06/16: Sunshine Stars 2-0 MFM
02/03/16: MFM 2-1 – Sunshine Stars