After a 32-day break, the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) returns this weekend for the second stanza.
While there are expectations for some clubs to continue their fine form, it is also anticipated that the floundering teams in the first stanza of the season would have gotten their acts together to put up a better fight.
Review of the first stanza
In the first half of the league season, 181 goals were scored, with group A having more goals, 96, than group B, which recorded 85.
Plateau United had the most potent attack; scoring 17 goals, but they conceded a dozen goals in the process.
The duo of Kwara United and Enugu Rangers jointly scored the fewest goals in the first half of the season. The duo scored four and conceded seven and nine goals, respectively.
Meanwhile, there were more home defeats in Group A than B during the first stanza. In all, nine home defeats were recorded in Group A compared to Group B, which had five.
Bendel Insurance, surprisingly, were the only unbeaten side in the League having played nine games, they won seven and drew two.
Will the Gunners survive in Aba against the Elephants?
The biggest game of the weekend is certainly the top-table clash between Enyimba and Bendel Insurance in Aba on Sunday.
Though they are yet to concede a goal on home soil this season, the Peoples’ Elephant have a herculean task to fulfil against the Edo Gunners.
Insurance were a threat to any opponent they paid a visit to during the first stanza of the season but we wait to see if they would keep that momentum as the second stanza gets underway.
Enyimba have scored seven goals at home while Bendel Insurance in four games on the road scored six and conceded two goals.
The game between both sides seems to be a crucial battle for Enyimba who currently have 16 points, a point higher than Akwa United who have a home game against a shaky Shooting Stars side.
Enyimba’s last five games ended in two defeats and three wins while Bendel Insurance had two draws and three wins.
Meanwhile, in the first stanza, Bendel Insurance defeated Enyimba by a lone goal; a scoreline they will love to replicate in Aba on Sunday.
Predicted Scoreline: Enyimba 0 vs 0 Bendel Insurance
Tasking game for Ogunbote and his boys in Uyo
It was not an exciting period for Shooting Stars of Ibadan during the first stanza of the season, despite acquiring new legs before the league started. The Oluyole Warriors have been floundering in the nine games played, having conceded 13 and scored 11 goals. They won just two of their last nine league games, with four draws and three defeats.
However, the warriors have another appointment to keep with Akwa United, who they shared a point with at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba last month.
In the last 13 games between the two teams, Akwa United have six wins compared to Shooting Stars who have won five times.
Ayodeji Ayeni-led Akwa United would also work on getting maximum points to eye the second spot in the Group A table, as they are one point behind Enyimba.
Meanwhile, the Oluyole Warriors have only picked a point on the road this season as they have lost three consecutive away games.
Predicted Scoreline: Akwa United 1-0 Shooting Stars
Dicey game in Enugu
The Abdul Maikaba-led Enugu Rangers would hope to bounce back from their lone goal away defeat to Rivers when they play Bayelsa United in Awka.
For the Flying Antelopes, they have refused to fly to the optimal this season having scored just four goals with seven conceded in nine games.
Similar to Rangers, Bayelsa United have also conceded 14 goals and scored only nine. Both teams maintain the seventh and eighth positions, respectively.
Their last encounter ended in a 1-1 draw where Robert Mizo’s 41st-minute strike cancelled Godwin Obaje’s early-minute goal.
Predicted Scoreline: Enugu Rangers 2-1 Bayelsa United
Northern derby in Jos
Fidelis Ilechukwu will kick-start the second stanza with a Northern derby against Gombe United at the New Jos Stadium on Sunday.
One thing is certain, Plateau United will score goals, but keeping a clean sheet has become a big problem for the Peace Boys since the season started. They have only kept two clean sheets so far this season: against Kwara United and El Kanemi Warriors.
For Plateau United, who have scored 11 goals at home this season, they will be facing a compact Gombe United, who have only conceded just one goal on the road this season. Also, the Savannah Scorpions have only lost once on the road; similar to Akwa United in Group A.
READ ALSO: Bendel Insurance stun Akwa United as Nigerian League returns
Based on their past records, both teams have drawn four times with Plateau United winning thrice compared to Gombe, who have two wins.
It might end a stalemate in Jos as the last visit of the Savannah scorpion last season witnessed a 1-1 draw.
Predicted Scoreline: Plateau United 1-1 Gombe United
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