Saturday, February 18, 2012

NPL Week 10 preview

Enugu Rangers start at the top of the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) table this weekend but face old, bitter foes in Heartland in the oldest southeast derby known as the Oriental Derby. The other big game will be in Aba while seven other matches will take place.

The match between champions Dolphins and Jigawa Golden Stars has been put off owing to the former’s involvement in a 2012 Caf Champions League playoff in Malabo on Sunday against Sony Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. Here’s the preview for this matchday:

Saturday, February 18, 2012
Kwara United v Akwa United (Ilorin Township Stadium)
Still smarting from their 2 – 0 win at Gombe United, Tunde Sanni’s men will be keen to push further their ambition of staying in the top three when they play hosts to Akwa United this Saturday in Ilorin. Akwa United have played five games on the road and picked three points while Kwara United have dropped two points from 15 at home.

Last time both sides met in the top flight was February 2008 in this same game and Kwara United won by 3 – 2. Expect Kwara United hero, Segun Alebiosu, at Gombe to feature in this one while 'The Promise Keepers' will come with a handful of experienced men in Femi Thomas, Ibrahim Babale and Haruna Babalo among others. But Kwara United should win this.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Wikki Tourists v ABS FC (Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium)
This is the first Premier League clash between the two sides. ABS FC start off this game as the basement boys of the top flight with just five points though with an outstanding match to play. Wikki have made sure that very few teams secure points when they play at Bauchi and this season has been no exception with four wins in four home games.

Strikers Tunde Aremu and Victor Yakubu have been the main men for the Tourists and will be available to fire them to their fifth win of the season against Erasmus Onuh’s squad that have been out of sorts.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Kano Pillars v Lobi Stars (Sani Abacha Stadium)
Pillars go into this game just a place above the drop zone though with two outstanding games. Lobi have also started below par after taking three wins in seven games in spite of their 3 – 0 thrashing of Ocean Boys in mid-week.

Last season, Pillars won this game 2 – 0 with Gambo Mohammed among the goals. In the last nine years, Kano has been a difficult centre for Lobi as they have managed just a draw in seven visits and this time it would not be different.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

3SC v Ocean Boys (Obafemi Awolowo Stadium)
The coaches of both clubs are under pressure to start winning after dreadful starts to the season. But 3SC’s Festus Allen is the man under more pressure after his side have managed just nine points from 24 including two wins from five home games. But 3SC will be inspired from winning this corresponding fixture 2 – 1 last season.

Allen’s squad will be boosted with the return of Adigun Lateef and Afeez Awakan for this tie while the Divine Warriors will be in Ibadan with a full squad that include Emmanuel Enize, Ikechukwu Okemmiri and Eddy Ongolo but 3SC should edge this.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Rising Stars v Sharks (Dipo Dina Stadium)
Out-of-form Sharks will remain in Ijebu-Ode to confront Rising Stars after losing 2 – 3 to another Akure-based club, Sunshine Stars on Wednesday. John Obuh and his team will fancy the chance of snatching a win on the road against the newcomers.

If Sunday Erelusesi’s men must avoid their first fall at home this term then they must keep an eye on attacking winger, Bright Ejike, who has scored four times this season. However, the name of the Blue Angels is stamped to pick the points in this game.
Our prediction: 1 – 2

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Enugu Rangers v Heartland (Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium; live on SuperSport 9)
It is the real Oriental Derby between Enugu Rangers and Heartland. This was the biggest football derby in the southeast between the 1970s and the 1980s before the coming of Enyimba. But in the past nine years, Heartland have proven to be a handful to the Flying Antelopes – winning nine against Rangers’ five while the other two games have ended in draws.

Rangers will miss Ejike Uzoenyi while Obinna Nwachukwu, Kabir Umar, Kingsley Salami, Uche Oguchi and Bartholomew Ibenegbu are also away on international duties. Last season Rangers won this game through Brendan Ogbu’s goal and this term, the same man will play against them. But the Flying Antelopes will hold on for a win to remain top of the NPL standings though it was at Enugu that Heartland won their last away game in 2009.
Our prediction: 3 – 2

Enyimba v Warri Wolves (Enyimba Sports Stadium)
Last season in this game Paul Aigbogun’s men held out for a goalless draw against Enyimba. This time the Wolves’ backline will have to work for the points as Enyimba have won all games in Aba and conceded just once. Previous four visits by Wolves have ended in defeats.

Aigbogun will have to setup his squad for this tie without four key men in Chigozie Agbim, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Uche Ossai and Sunday Mba. Josiah Maduabuchi is tipped to score in this game if he plays, as he has maintained a run of scoring in every of Enyimba’s home game this season. This game looks like a win on the cards for the two-time African champions.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

Kaduna United v Niger Tornadoes (Kaduna Township Stadium)
This will be the 11th clash between the two clubs since 2006, and Kaduna United edge their rivals with four wins to three with the other games ending in draws in the top flight head-to-head. This same game of last term will be remembered for the fact that Jude Aneke scored a hat-trick and became the first player to hit the 20-goal mark in an NPL season.

But Aneke has moved on to Warri Wolves but Oliver Insidibe appears to be the man shouldering a lot of the scoring responsibility this term for Kaduna United and will be keen to make his mark when Tornadoes come calling. But Justin Tenger’s side are full of talent to leave Kaduna without a fight.
Our prediction: 1 – 1

Gombe United v Sunshine Stars (Pantami Stadium)
Gombe United have suffered three defeats in last three games including a surprise 0 – 2 capitulation at home to Kwara United in mid-week. Sunshine Stars who will be without captain Godfrey Oboabona, Precious Osasco, Izu Azuka and Sunday Emmanuel will aim to drill the knife into the heart of Gombe United’s poor run so far.

Mustapha Babadidi might just have one more shot in the top flight alongside Sanusi Sani before he joins the Under17s. Sunshine Stars will be wary of Sani who scored twice in this same game last season to help Gombe United to a 3 – 0 win at the Pantami Stadium. Bernard Ogbe’s men surely are in for a tough test.
Our prediction: 0 – 0

*In the previous matchday 'The Predictor' did not get any exact score but predicted four correct results.

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