Saturday, January 28, 2012

NPL preview for Week 5

The Nigeria Premier League (NPL) has opted for Matchday Five games to be played this weekend according to its calendar. The league body has moved Week Three games, which were postponed due to the recent nationwide industrial action, to next Wednesday and Thursday.

But the game between Kano Pillars and Enyimba has been called off owing to security concerns in the city of Kano. Here are the previews of the nine matches to hold this weekend:

Saturday, January 28, 2012
Sharks v Warri Wolves (Sharks Stadium)Wolves have not won at Sharks in more than seven years including when they were still known as NPA. In their last four visits to Port Harcourt, Wolves have only picked a point off Sharks – a 0 – 0 draw in September 2009.

New Sharks’ man, Chimezie Mbah if selected will face his old teammates in this tie that is expected to be tight, as coach Paul Aigbogun is known to deploy his men with a defensive approach and a touch of counter-attacking football when playing away from Warri. Last season, Victor Ezeji and Efosa Ikhimhin made sure the Blue Angels grabbed all points in this same fixture. This time the Blue Angels should earn the full points.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

ABS FC v Kwara United (Ilorin Township Stadium, live on SuperSport 9)
This is the first of the six city derbies in total expected to take place this season. Last season, ABS FC did the double over Kwara United – with 3 – 0 wins over the two legs. One man who masterminded the heavy defeats on Kwara United – Otu-Bassey Effiom – left the team for a Norwegian club. ABS FC have also lost key men in Abdulrahman Bashir and Azeez Sobowale before the start of this season.

But Erasmus Onuh’s men will be out to grab a third win over their city rivals in only their third top flight meeting and ensure that they climb out of the bottom four after suffering three successive losses at Enyimba, Heartland and Warri Wolves.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Niger Tornadoes v 3SC (Bako Kontagora Stadium)
Tornadoes got off their season to a winning start in mid-week by thumping Ocean Boys three-nil with former Zamfara United man, Azuka Ebinum becoming the second man to hit a treble this term. Festus Allen’s men on the other hand have struggled to score in their last two games against Rising Stars and Gombe United in Ibadan.

The trip to Minna will prove to be a huge mission for the Oluyole Warriors, as they have only managed a 1 – 1 draw at Tornadoes in seven years including three successive defeats at same venue in 2006, 2010and 2011. It is hard to see where the goals will come from for Allen’s team, as they have struggled to net just twice in three games this season.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

Rising Stars v Wikki Tourists (Dipo Dina Stadium)
Newcomers, Rising Stars have proven to be the draw specialists after taking three points from their opening three games against Akwa United, 3SC and Kano Pillars. Sunday Erelusesi’s men look set to earn their first full points of the season in their first-ever Premier League clash with Wikki Tourists.

The Tourists, which equally earned promotion to the top flight this term, have in recent years struggled to win games on the road even while Ladan Bosso was in charge of the squad. To underscore their poor run in away games, Wikki lost by a goal to Enugu Rangers in mid-week at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. Rising Stars will take the points by the odd goal.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Jigawa Golden Stars v Heartland (Kaduna Township Stadium)
Jigawa Golden Stars start off this round of games as the basement club in the NPL standings and at their temporary home ground in Kaduna. Abdul Pele's men have lost all of their three opening games this term but will aim for their first win when Heartland come calling.

Cup holders, Heartland have gone unbeaten in their last two visits to Jigawa Stars - earning a 1-1 and a goalless draw in 2003 and 2008 respectively. Lodewijk de Kruif's men are favourites in this game.
Our prediction: 0 – 1

Sunday, January 29, 2012
Ocean Boys v Akwa United (Samson Siasia Stadium)
It will be an emotional return to Yenagoa for goalkeeper Femi Thomas on Sunday but the attackers of Ocean Boys led by captain Emmanuel Enize and winger Ikechukwu Okemmiri will make the return a busy one for the Akwa United first-choice. Both clubs have met only four times in the NPL and they have shared the spoils equally with two wins apiece.

The Promise Keepers, as Akwa United are called, head to Yenagoa to face the Divine Warriors on the back of two defeats in their only two visits to the Samson Siasia Stadium. And on both occasions, Akwa United have failed to score a goal. Expect Samson Unuanel to send out his men to attack outright after their 0 – 3 defeat at Niger Tornadoes in mid-week.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

Lobi Stars v Sunshine Stars (Emmanuel Atongo Stadium)
This same game will definitely be remembered for throwing up the 'match-fixing' allegation that rocked the NPL last term. Though the investigation remains inconclusive, both clubs will square up on the pitch for the full points.

Last season in this same fixture, Sunshine Stars left Lobi Stars' boss, Dominic Iorfa livid after they earned a 1-1 draw but four previous visits to Lobi since March 2003 have ended in defeats. A tough reception awaits Gbenga Ogunbote's men at the Chief Emmanuel Atongo Stadium in Katsina-Ala.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Dolphins v Enugu Rangers (Liberation Stadium)
This is a clash between second placed Rangers and Dolphins in fifth. Last season in this corresponding match, Dolphins won by a lone goal while the reverse fixture produced four goals to end the game at 2-2.

Both clubs come into this contest having won in their last round of games. Rangers have made six trips to Port Harcourt in eight years and have managed to earn a win and two draws. This game will end with Dolphins just edging it.
Our prediction: 1 - 0

Kaduna United v Gombe United (Kaduna Township Stadium)
Maurice Cooreman's squad last term in this same game destroyed Gombe United 3-0. But Kaduna United are not the same team having lost most of their key players to rival clubs.

Gombe United lead the NPL standings and are one of six clubs without a defeat this season ahead of this game. In spite of their fine run so far, Bernard Ogbe's men have never won in four previous visits to Kaduna and that will not change this time.
Our prediction: 1 - 1

*'The Predictor' got SEVEN results correct including TWO actual scores in Matchday Two.

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