And we go again for another set of games in the NPFL! Some interesting match-ups that include an intra-city derby and another one in the eastern part of the country. Here’s our preview of match week seven of the Nigeria Premier Football League.
First State Derby Of The Season
Another match week, another NPFL derby! This time, it’s the Savannah Derby or as they call it in Gombe, the Jewel Derby. City rivals, Gombe United and Doma United will face off in what will be a historical first meeting in the Nigerian top flight.
For the longest time, Gombe United have represented the ‘Jewel of the Savannah’ state at the top level of Nigerian football but nowadays, they share that honor with their closest rivals, Doma United since their promotion from the NNL in 2022.
Last season both teams avoided each other as they were placed in different groups. But this Sunday they meet at the ground they both call home. On paper, Gombe United is the home side but you can expect a huge number of Doma fans at the stadium.
This one will be a battle on many fronts. The old guard versus the new boys, a government-run club versus a privately managed enterprise. Who will win this historical match-up? We wait to see.
Gombe United v Doma United, Pantami Stadium, Gombe
An Oriental Derby With A Lot At Stake
Enugu Rangers host Heartland in this week’s Oriental derby with both teams positioned at different spectrums of the log. High-flying Enugu Rangers can go top of the league with a win while Heartland is still looking for their first win this season and sits bottom going into match week seven.
The new Rangers management have made it clear that they are going for the title this season, and for a team with such lofty ambitions, these are the kind of games you expect them to win. Rangers have won all their home games this season, scoring eight goals. They are also unbeaten at home in 9 games against Heartland, winning 7 of those.
A Heartland team with all kinds of issues on and off the pitch shouldn’t be a problem except this is a derby and sometimes form doesn’t matter in these games. Christian Obi is walking on a tightrope and that could be his motivation to get something from this game.
Enugu Rangers v Heartland, Awka Township Stadium, Awka.
Insurance And Remo Renew Hostilities
Bendel Insurance will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend when they host league-leaders, Remo Stars. The Benin Arsenal were not in action in midweek as their game against Doma United was moved a week back. Having lost and drawn against Gombe and Akwa United, Monday Odigie’s side risk losing touch with the top sides if they fail to win. Last week, the Insurance gaffer let his displeasure known about the lack of attacking threat in the team after Imade Osarenkhoe was sold against his wish. With the transfer window shut, he can’t get anyone in right now, so he has to find a solution from within.
In Sikiru Alimi, Remo Stars have the joint top scorer in the league and a man beaming with confidence. He would however be coming up against the stingiest defense in the last two seasons. Insurance has conceded only once so far and is very difficult to break down, especially at home. But if there’s any team that can cause them problems right now, it is this Remo side who have won three games on the bounce and scored seven goals. The Sky Blue Stars won the last meeting between these two in the championship playoffs, but they have never beaten Insurance in a regular league season(NPFL and NNL).
Bendel Insurance v Remo Stars, Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin.
Can Akwa United Kick On From Here?
Off the back of their first win of the season, Akwa United have a great chance to double that tally with another home game against this Sunday. The Promise Keepers held on to defeat Gombe on Thursday, now they have to repeat the trick against Plateau United.
Fatai Osho‘s men are just outside the drop zone on goal difference, which is far away from where you expect the 2021 champions to be. They have struggled to score at home(1 in 3 games) despite being the highest-scoring team on the road. Against a Plateau side who are yet to get a point away from home, they should fancy themselves.
Not like it is unusual with NPFL teams, but Plateau has a terrible away record. The Peace Boys are winless on their last 9 trips(stretching back to last season), losing 6 of those games. They are still finding their foot under Mbwas Mangut’s guidance and will play for a draw in Eket. If they can get it, it will be a step in the right direction for their season.
Akwa United v Shooting Stars, Eket Township Stadium, Eket.
Fine Margin Sporting Lagos Host King Rabiu And His Troops
Sporting Lagos have either won or lost their last three games cause of controversial refereeing decisions. Against Remo Stars, they were on the receiving end of two big calls that decided the game. Sikiru Alimi scored the winner after Ozaveche was adjudged to have handled the ball in his area while the referee waved play on to their strong shout for a penalty at the other end. They could have drawn at home against Niger Tornadoes if the assistant referee didn’t rescue them with his late flag. And on Thursday, Kwara United’s equalizer against them came courtesy of a dubious penalty.
The start to life in the top flight has been mixed for the Tech Boys. 2 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses in their first 6 games leaves them in the mid-section of the table. Injury to key members of the squad have also disrupted the flow of the team but they are learning to get past the issues.
On Monday, they host one of the traditional sides in Nigeria with arguably the greatest star in NPFL history. Rabiu Ali might be in his 40s but the Pillars legend is still going strong in his 14th season. His 2 goals this season is the most by a Pillars player and he will be hoping to add to it in Lagos. Pillars lost heavily in their last away game(4-1 to Rangers) but bounced back with a 3-0 over Bayelsa United.
Sporting Lagos v Kano Pillars, Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan