Friday, April 06, 2012

The Predictor’s Week 19 preview

In spite of four matches called off owing to continental engagement by Dolphins, Sunshine Stars, Heartland and Warri Wolves, the final day of the first round in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) has incredible games up.

One of Enugu Rangers, Enyimba and Kano Pillars will go top at the end of the first round. Followers of Nigeria’s top flight will also have their eyes on ABS, who could hit double figures with their unbeaten streak in the Garden City of Port Harcourt.

Saturday, April 7, 2012
3SC v Enyimba (Lekan Salami Stadium; live on SuperSport 9)
Both teams will shake off signing shirt sponsorship deals during the week with brewing firm, Guinness Nigeria Plc and battle for points. Past matches between 3SC and Enyimba in Ibadan have always produced talking points and goals like the 3 – 3 draw of June 2006. In five trips to Ibadan, the Peoples Elephant have found joy three times – sharing the spoils – and losing twice including last season’s 0 – 1 loss.

Gbolahan Salami returns to face his old team while Josiah Maduabuchi and John Nnam, who just resumed training, still remain doubtful. 3SC will miss Tope Orelope, Kabiru Alausa and Kingsley Elvis for this one but have leading scorer, Osagona Ighodaro back in the squad after suspension. The Aba club will leave Ibadan with a point.
Our prediction: 2 – 2

Sharks v ABS FC (Sharks Stadium)
Last season, Sharks won this game by a lone goal. Can John Obuh’s men bring the nine-game unbeaten streak of ABS to a halt in Port Harcourt this Saturday? Yes they can after back-to-back wins over Enugu Rangers and Heartland.

ABS have youngsters capable of hurting the Blue Angels but the experience of Gomo Onduku, Odinga Odinga and co will lift the home team in this tie. But expect a very close contest considering the confidence in Kabir Sulaiman Dogo’s team.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Rising Stars v Gombe United (Kayode Oluyemi Stadium)
Fourth-placed Gombe United come up against the basement boys, Rising Stars in Ado-Ekiti for the first time in the NPL. Sunday Erelesusi and his team are under pressure to start winning after a stretch of eight matches without a win. The home team last won an away game on March 3 when they beat Ocean Boys 2 – 0.

Gombe United will still be without the league’s leading scorer, Mustapha Babadidi but have the like of Austin Ekpoma, Ahmed Aliyu and Abduljeleel Yekini to fill in the striking roles. The Desert Scorpions are capable of leaving Ado-Ekiti with a result.
Our prediction: 1 – 1

Kano Pillars v Kaduna United (Sani Abacha Stadium)
Kaduna United will ride about 200 kilometres from their base to Kano by road for this northern derby. Kano Pillars have always edged Kaduna United in the derbies, as the latter have managed just a win in last eight head-to-head Premier League games – being a 2 – 1 home win in 2008.

United will have to wait longer before they end their poor run of four years against their biggest northern rivals, as Baba Ganaru and his team are ready to grind out a win in this game and hope that Rangers and Enyimba slip-up in their road trips to Hadejia and Ibadan respectively.
Our prediction: 3 – 1

Sunday, April 8, 2012
Lobi Stars v Kwara United (Emmanuel Atongo Stadium)
Kwara United will be keen to pick their first point at Lobi Stars in six visits since September 2003. Last season, the Afonja Warriors were beaten 1 – 2 in this same fixture. Lobi have not lost in last two games and look favourites to win this game especially with the return of one of their forward men, Tony Okpotu.

Though former Flying Eagles’ goalkeeper, Kazeem Yekeen has put up fine performances this term, it will be difficult to stop Lobi Stars from winning in Katsina-Ala this Sunday.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Jigawa Golden Stars v Enugu Rangers (Hadejia Township Stadium)
Table-topping Rangers go head-to-head with Jigawa Stars for the first time in four years. The last two visits of Rangers to Jigawa ended in identical scorelines of 0 – 2 losses in 2003 and 2007. It is definitely going to be a hot Sunday afternoon for Okey Emordi’s men and if they must leave Hadejia with a result that could ensure they finish top of the standings at the end of the first round then Chikeluba Ofoedu and Ejike Uzoenyi will have to be in their best form while they keep the influential Bala Mohammed quiet.
Our prediction: 0 – 0

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