Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NPL Week 3 preview

The Nigeria Premier League (NPL) has finally settled for Wednesday and Thursday to have the outstanding matches for Week 3 played after a nationwide strike put the games, initially slated for January 18 and 19, on hold.

However, two games have been postponed owing to Sunshine Stars and Warri Wolves being involved in club continental football matches abroad this weekend. But the big game will be in Aba and will be live on SuperSport TV.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Heartland v Niger Tornadoes (UJ Esuene Stadium)
This is the 19th meeting in the top flight between both teams and Cup holders, Heartland have won eight over their opponents’ six. Tornadoes have avoided defeat only twice in nine trips to Heartland in the past eight years. Last season, the hosts won this game 2 – 1 and this time it will be an early kick off from 2pm in the city of Calabar.

Heartland duo of Chinedu ‘Chicago’ Efugh and Osas Okoro is in line for this game. The hosts will have to keep an eye on the trio of Daniel Essien Etor, Sibi Gwar and Shehu ‘Romario’ Abdullahi. The Naze Millionaires should take the win ahead of their trip to Cameroon where they face US Haut Nkam in a Caf Confederation Cup game.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Wikki Tourists v Kwara United (Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium)
Both sides last met in the 2009/2010 season when Kwara United completed the double on the Tourists. In this corresponding game of that season, Kwara United edged Wikki 4 – 3 in a seven-goal game in Bauchi – that remains Kwara United’s best result at Wikki in eight years.

Kwara United could start with second-choice keeper, Suraj Ayeleso as Kazeem Yekeen suffered a slight shoulder shift in last weekend’s loss at Warri Wolves. Wikki will have the likes of Mustapha Ibrahim, Festus Umanah, Victor Yakubu and Abubakar Aminu in their team as they will be out to remain in the top four.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Enyimba v Dolphins (Enyimba Sports Stadium; live on SuperSport 9)
This is undoubtedly the biggest game of this matchday. Last season, champions Dolphins lost 0 – 3 in Aba to Enyimba with Victor Barnabas, Uche Kalu and Josiah Maduabuchi getting the goals. Dolphins come into this game without a win in four games.

Dolphins’ manager, Stanley Eguma will be mindful of throwing a strong team into this game, as his side play host to Coton Sport Garoua of Cameroon this weekend in the Caf Champions League. The Peoples Elephant will be fired for this game as Austin Eguavoen will line up his strongest men such as Henry Uche, Nzube Anazemba, Kalu and Maduabuchi to get the three points.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

Kaduna United v Rising Stars (Kaduna Township Stadium)
This is the first clash in the NPL between the two teams and a bottom four clash too. Both clubs are in dire need of the points, and the hosts look the favourites to win this game.

Buhari Jafar, Tijani Adamu, Yakubu Musa and Hassan Abubakar will play big roles in securing a fifth win of the season for the hosts against their opponents, who have been largely reliant on striker Kayode ‘Careca’ Agboola for goals this term.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Ocean Boys v Sharks (Samson Siasia Stadium)
It is amazing that both sides go into this game having conceded 19 goals so far this season with 2006 champions, Ocean Boys starting this matchday in the bottom four. The Blue Angels have succeeded in avoiding defeat at Ocean Boys just once in last season’s 1 – 1 draw.

On the road Sharks have the worst defensive record having shipped in 17 goals and will face the Divine Warriors whose front line have been blunt and have managed to score nine times in 14 games. But the hosts look a better prospect to take the points against John Obuh’s team.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Gombe United v Enugu Rangers (Pantami Stadium)
It is five games now since Gombe United last won in the NPL – the last win being a 1 – 0 on February 19 against Sunshine Stars. On the other hand, Rangers just had their nine-game unbeaten streak halted at Sunshine Stars and will be keen to avoid back-to-back defeats in a bid to stave off the chasing pack in the title race.

Rangers will be buoyed by the fact that since 2003 they have left Gombe on five occasions without losing including a 1 – 0 win in June 2007. Manager Okey Emordi will be happy to leave Gombe with a point and is expected to hand Emeka Eze, Chikeluba Ofoedu, Ejike Uzoenyi and Oghogho Oduokpe starting places as usual as he hopes his back line keep out Mustapha Babadidi and Sanusi Sani who have failed to score in recent league games.
Our prediction: 1 – 1

Thursday, March 22, 2012
Jigawa Golden Stars v Lobi Stars (Hadejia Stadium)
Lobi Stars have lost at Jigawa in their last two visits by same scoreline of 0 – 1 and Evans Ogenyi’s team, which have been strengthened with experienced players in Moses Ogaga, Habibu Inusa and Oliver Agbo coupled with early season signings in Maurice Chigozie and Bala Mohammed, will give Lobi a tough Thursday.

As much as Lobi will fancy their chances in Hadejia, the Golden Stars will just nick this one.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Kano Pillars v 3SC (Sani Abacha Stadium)
On paper this game looks like a total mismatch. Kano Pillars are the most in-form team on a streak of six unbeaten games at the moment. In the last five rounds of games, 3SC have managed just a win while Pillars have won two. 3SC in their last four trips to Kano have lost all four by similar 0 – 1 scorelines.

It is difficult to look beyond Pillars winning this game with striker Gambo Mohammed now in his best form. 3SC will collapse under the weight of expectation.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

*On Matchday 15 of the NPL, ‘The Predictor’ forecasted NINE correct scores from 10 and also got THREE actual results.

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