Five weeks into the NPFL season and we still don’t know what direction some teams are going. Ultimatums have been given to some coaches as some teams look to establish dominance, here’s your guide to match day 5 of the Nigeria Premier Football League 2023/2024 season.
Akwa Seek First Win Against Home-dominant Insurance
After suffering their first defeat at an away ground since their return to the top flight, Bendel Insurance will be eyeing a return to winning ways when they host Akwa United on Saturday. The Benin Arsenal lost 1-0 to Gombe United last week, putting a stop to their impressive record on the road. They however remain unbeaten when playing at home in the NPFL since September 2007.
That doesn’t read well for an Akwa United side who are seeking a first win of the season. Fatai Osho’s side are bottom of the table after four weeks and pressure is beginning to mount on the former Enyimba manager. The Promise Keepers had hoped to be competing for the league this season but instead, they find themselves struggling to score goals and home while letting in too much on the road.
Some club managements have started dishing ultimatums to coaches, Osho would need a big result this weekend to avoid one.
Bendel Insurance v Akwa United, Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin.
Can King Rabiu And Pillars Ruin Ranger’s Positive Vibe?
The Enugu Rangers camp is arguably the happiest in the league this season. The Flying Antelopes are winning points on the pitch and also signing sponsorship/partnership deals off it. This week, they followed their well-earned point in Ilorin with the announcement of their new shirt marker, Cone Sports, just weeks after they revealed their front shirt sponsor for the season. Fidelis Ilechukwu’s team begin the game week in third position and can go top with a win.
They will need to be on point against a Rabiu Ali-inspired Pillars team who have been stingy with goals. Sai Masu Gida enter this on the back of a victory against Rivers United.
Enugu Rangers v Kano Pillars, Awka Township Stadium, Awka.
Giant Killing Gombe Take Plateau United To Task
After handing defeats to Enyimba and Rivers United, Gombe United will be targeting another big kill with Plateau United. The Pantami stadium has been the only source of joy for Babaganaru’s team thus far and with a trip to point-hunting Akwa United next, a win on Saturday is crucial. The Savannah Scorpions won this fixture last season with a late goal, they will want an early goal this time to rock a Plateau side who have been bad on their in recent seasons.
Mbwas Mangut’s men have won only once in their last 22 away fixtures but they can take confidence from recent trips to Gombe. They secured draws on their last three visits before last season.
Gombe United v Plateau United, Pantami Stadium, Gombe
Bayelsa Can Bank On Home Comfort To End Poor Run
After an impressive comeback win on opening day, Bayelsa United have suffered defeats in 3 consecutive games. The Prosperity Boys lost at home to Remo Stars in-between defeats to Doma and Niger Tornadoes. They are back in Yenegoa to take on a Kwara United team who have managed back-to-back draws against Enugu Rangers and Rivers United.
This will be the fifth meeting between these two and Bayelsa hold the advantage. The 2009 league winners are unbeaten(2 wins, 1 draw) against Kwara in the last three games between them. They have also never conceded when playing against the Harmony Boys.
Bayelsa United v Kwara United, Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenegoa
Can These Two End Their Winless Streak?
Both Katsina United and Sunshine Stars are winless in their last three games. Two draws against Lobi and Heartland have followed the defeat against Pillars in the North-west derby for Katsina while Sunshine endured a painful draw in between losses to Lobi and Plateau. It’s all to play for at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium this Sunday between the 13th and 16th-placed sides in the league.
Meanwhile, Sunshine have served their assistant coaches ultimatums while the head coach of the team, Edith Agoye was spared. According to reports, Akin Olowokere and Banjo Adepoju who assist Agoye have been told to ensure the team picks maximum points from their next two games. The order was said to have come from the Commissioner for Sports, Bamidele Ologunloluwa.
Katsina United v Sunshine Stars, Muhammadu Dikko Stadium, Katsina.
And The Count Begins For Christian Obi
“The club has all the support they asked for and we want this to manifest in the team’s subsequent games. The technical crew must win their next two games if they do not want their jobs reviewed.”
That up there was part of the statement by the Imo State Commissioner For Sports, Honourable Emeka Okoronkwo this week. In clear terms, he informed the technical crew and management of what their target must be in their next games. Ultimatums like this can do two things. It could motivate the team to give a reaction or put them under immense pressure that affects them negatively. We wait to see what it will be for a Heartland team lacking in quality when they take on goal-shy Abia Warriors.
Abia Warriors v Heartland, Umuahia Township Stadium, Umuahia.
Rivers And Lobi Renew Rivalry From Last Season
The top two teams from Group B of the Abridge 2023/2024 season square off this weekend. Meetings between these two produced goals, red cards, and late drama. The Pride of Rivers needed a late Bolaji Sakin penalty to get the maximum points in Port Harcourt and they also lost similarly when Elijah Ani scored in stoppage time in the diverse fixture. The two teams were inseparable during the playoffs as Rivers United lost their title to Enyimba.
Lobi have started the season well and come into this game in second position and unbeaten while Rivers have endured their worst start in recent years. The task for Lobi will be to avoid defeat at a ground they have lost on their last four visits.
Rivers United v Lobi Stars, Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt.
Can 3SC Gun Down Confident Doma?
Shooting Stars have won their first two home games of the season and will enter their third on the back of an impressive draw in Uyo. This is the first-ever meeting between both sides and Shooting will want to start it off with a home win. Doma would have other ideas though as they look to earn back-to-back points on the Road. The Savannah Tigers got a draw in Lagos two weeks ago and after getting last week off because of Enyimba’s continental engagement, they will feel fresh for this one.
Shooting Stars v Doma United, Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan
Injury-Ravaged Sporting Need To Find Answers
After an impressive win in their first-ever top-flight game against Gombe United, Sporting Lagos have now gone 3 games without a win. Worse for Paul Offor is the injury some crucial members of his squad have picked up. Patrick Egeonu, Emeka Nwokeji, and Chisom Orji all missed the Southwest derby against Remo while Aliu Salaudeen was withdrawn at halftime with a suspected injury. These setbacks have left the ‘Tech-Boys’ light in defense and on the wings and Offor will need to find solutions.
Niger Tornadoes have lost each of their last four away games stretching back to last season. They also have a terrible record when visiting the Southwest. Abdulazeez Hamza Abara will hope he can take advantage of Sporting’s problems and cause more frustration for Lagos fans.
Sporting Lagos v Niger Tornadoes, Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan
Embarrassing Enyimba Get Week Off After Continental Disgrace
Enyimba were supposed to host Remo Stars on Sunday but after their midweek exertion, the game has been postponed. Finidi George and his men will get the whole week to review their performance in the AFL and try to sort themselves out before their next game.
For Remo, it allows them to recover from one Southwest derby and prepare for another next week. Ogumodede’s side have a chance to get 3 wins on the bounce.