NPFL big hitters take to the turf in midweek contests
By George Akpayen
Three rearranged fixtures are on offer this Wednesday in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) with the defending champions Plateau United, seven-time champions Enyimba and current Cup holders Akwa United all involved.
Two-time African champions Enyimba square up against FC Ifeanyiubah at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar in an Oriental Derby. The People’s Elephant are on a fine run of 10 unbeaten matches in all competitions in the league and the CAF Confederation Cup.
Paul Aigbogun’s men have not been a high-scoring team but they have made up for that with their meanness in defence — conceding just nine goals in 17 league matches. Enyimba have also lost only twice in the league this season, only to Katsina United and one of their Oriental rivals Rangers.
They are up against another Oriental opponents FC Ifeanyiubah who are unbeaten in all of their previous derbies against rivals in the southeast. The Anambra Warriors have beaten Heartland and drew with Abia Warriors and Rangers in their previous involvement in the mini-league of the Oriental derby.
However FC Ifeanyiubah have failed to avoid defeat in their last six matches at Enyimba. They have also failed to score in those last six meetings. Ladan Bosso’s men have also failed to score in their last three away games which puts the odds against them of getting a goal against a tight Enyimba defence.
Talking of title-defence, Plateau United have not had it smoothsailing. Kennedy Boboye leads his troops to Akwa United for a crunch game at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo where the champions have only dared to dream without success.
The Promise Keepers under Abdu Maikaba have bolstered their playing personnel with the like of Jamiu Alimi, Ifeanyi Edeh and Ayobami Asekunowo. This has allowed the Akwa United head coach try out a three-man defence with wing-backs, something he might opt for again when the champions come calling.
Last season, MFM FC were regarded as one of the best ball-playing sides in the country but this term Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men have struggled after losing key men like Stephen Odey, Austine Ogunye and Oladele Oshobe. In the current transfer window, goalkeeper Ospino Egbe and Monsuru Bashiru have been prised away by table-toppers Lobi Stars as they prepare to face Yobe Desert Stars at the August 27 Stadium in Damaturu.
Yobe Stars will looking to add to the worrying away form of MFM who have only won once in their last 16 league matches on the road. Mohammed Baba Ganaru and his team have failed to win in their last three matches but the former Kano Pillars trainer is confident they will return to winning ways on Wednesday.
“I believe it is just a little period of loss of form. We were unfortunate not to take the full points in Ilorin (against Kwara United) as we played so well. We can’t afford to slip now because we are now in the lower half of the table, so this is a game we believe we can win,” Baba Ganaru told npfl.ng.
The NPFL season continues after the weekend games with Matchday 22 this Sunday.