Saturday, January 21, 2012

NPL preview for Week 4

No thanks to the recent nationwide industrial action, the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) has had to reschedule the fixtures for Day Two and Three and jump to Week Four.

All ten games will hold this Saturday and Sunday as scheduled barring any last minute hitch.

Saturday, January 21, 2012
Kwara United v Dolphins (Ilorin Township Stadium)
Both teams have met 14 times since 2003 with the champions, Dolphins winning seven against Kwara United’s four. Last season in this game, Dolphins got away with a point through a late goal from Emma Nwachi after youngster Anthony Okemmiri had put Kwara United in front.

But Stanley Eguma’s side are yet to win in Ilorin in seven visits. If midfielder Isiaka Olawale is cleared he could make his debut for the champions against his former team.
Our prediction: 2 – 2

Wikki Tourists v Kano Pillars (Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium)
This is a clash between two coaches who worked together last season – Ladan Bosso of Wikki versus Baba Ganaru of Kano Pillars. Bosso, 45, will aim to put spanners in the works of his former club but Ganaru will have a full squad for the trip to Bauchi after Papa Idris, Rabiu Ali and Musa Musa returned to the team after a month camping with the Super Eagles.

The last time both sides met in this same fixture was on January 24, 2010 and Kano Pillars edged Wikki by a lone goal before completing the double on their opponents in same season in June of the same year. Ganaru’s men have the edge going into this game but Wikki have the Bosso factor.
Our prediction: 1 – 1

3SC v Rising Stars (Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, live on SuperSport 9)
3SC started the season with a 2 – 1 win over Sharks. Head coach, Festus Allen is keen to see his side build on that victory when they play host to newcomers, Rising Stars in Ibadan.

Allen’s men should not have a problem dispatching their opponents from Akure, and could as well top the league for just 24 hours depending on the outcome of other results involving Day One winners.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

Sunday, January 22, 2012
Akwa United v Jigawa Golden Stars (Uyo Township Stadium)
Both teams returned to the top flight after spells in the second tier of the Nigerian league. Jigawa Golden Stars fell 1 – 2 to a late goal in their Week One game to Kaduna United in mid-week but will take the fight to Uyo, where Solomon Ogbeide will line up a strong side.

The last meeting between these two in the top flight took place in Uyo in November 2007 with Akwa United edging their opponents by an odd goal. The Promise Keepers, as Akwa United are called, should take all points in this one.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Gombe United v Niger Tornadoes (Pantami Stadium)
There have been 16 head-to-head top flight clashes between both sides in nine years. And it has been a case of no victor, no vanquish with eight wins apiece. In eight visits to Gombe, Tornadoes have managed just a win – in September 2009 when they won 1 – 0. Last season in this corresponding fixture, Gombe won by a goal, and will hope that two-goal hero, Sanusi Sani can lift them like he did on the opening day against Lobi Stars.

Tornadoes will also have the likes of Daniel Etor, Sibi Gwar and Shehu ‘Romario’ Abdullahi lurking around Gombe’s goal area.
Our prediction: 1 – 1

Enugu Rangers v Kaduna United (Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium)
The Flying Antelopes started the season on a shaky note with a home draw to Warri Wolves. New coach, Okey Emordi will push his men for an outright win this time against Kaduna United that have lost some of their top players to rival clubs. Both teams have identical form guides from last five games with two wins, a draw and two losses.

But Rangers have the edge with their home record having won three of their four games as hosts to Kaduna United with the other game ending in a goal apiece.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

Sunshine Stars v Ocean Boys (Dipo Dina Stadium)
Last season, it was at Ocean Boys that Sunshine Stars lost the NPL title after throwing away a two-goal lead in the last 18 minutes. This time, Gbenga Ogunbote’s men will go out to face the 2006 champions with a ruthless mission.

Ocean Boys have never taken a point off Sunshine Stars on the road in three visits – and are also yet to record their first goal against the Akure Gunners in this same corresponding fixture in the top flight since February 2009. The Divine Warriors will have to live up to their sobriquet if they must leave Ijebu-Ode with a result this Sunday.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Enyimba v Sharks (Enyimba Sports Stadium)
Six-time champions, Enyimba have never dropped a point at home to Sharks in the top flight since 2003 – in all seven home wins against the Blue Angels. Enyimba have in recent seasons become the bogey team to the Blue Angels – winning eight times and drawing twice in 14 meetings.

Though Enyimba lost some key men from last season’s campaign, the team is still anchored on the shoulders of playmaker, Josiah Maduabuchi. As for Sharks, it is another road trip they cannot afford to drop points, as they could find themselves in the bottom half of the standings after just matchday two.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Heartland v ABS FC (Dan Anyiam Stadium)
Chibuzor Okonkwo, who got both goals for Heartland in this same match last season, will be missing from the line-up, as he is reportedly on trials at English Championship side, Reading. Ransom Madu should still be in charge except Dutch coach, Lodewijk de Kruif arrives in Owerri in time after holidaying in Holland in the off-season.

The Naze Millionaires have strengthened their squad and among the 13 new men could be unleashed on ABS FC who are in their second straight season in the top flight. Erasmus Onuh will parade a group of new players against Heartland in a game the Owerri club are expected to win.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

Warri Wolves v Lobi Stars (Warri City Stadium)
Last season, Paul Aigbogun’s men were made to work hard by Lobi Stars in this same game before striker Efe Yarhere earned them a late 2 – 1 win in Warri. League followers will be watching out to see if NPL record top scorer with 20 goals, Jude Aneke will make his debut for Wolves this Sunday.

As for Dominic Iorfa’s men, it is now seven years without a point at Wolves and that might not change when both sides meet this weekend.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

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