The stage is set for the matchday 17 fixtures of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) as the season is almost hitting the halfway mark.
Aside from Enugu Rangers who will be playing on Saturday, the other nine games will be decided on Sunday, including the mouthwatering Southwestern derby, which will see Remo Stars hosting Sunshine Stars at the Ikenne Stadium.
Remo Stars vs Sunshine Stars (Ogunbote vs Ayeni)
Both teams don’t have a rich history but their recent forms make for an interesting battle on Sunday.
Gbenga Ogunbote, Remo Stars’ coach, will be facing his former side Sunshine Stars in what would likely be a tricky match.
While at Sunshine, Ogunbote had both good and bad moments and his popularity among the club faithful earned him the nickname “the Oracle”.
Ogunbote’s successor at Sunshine Stars, Deji Ayeni, has breathed new life into the Owenna Gunners who are now in the upper half of the table.
The last time Remo Stars and Sunshine Stars met in the NPFL was May 2019 with the Blue Sky Stars grabbing a lone goal victory. The only goal was scored by Victor Mbaoma at Ikenne though that victory couldn’t help them beat relegation.
After 2019, Remo Stars were relegated to the second division where they spent two seasons but the Ikenne players have become a threat ever since they returned under “the Oracle”.
In the past five meetings between these two sides, Sunshine Stars picked the larger share of victories of three games coupled with a draw while Remo Stars have only defeated Sunshine once.
Sunday’s game looks very crucial for both clubs in the League. A victory for Remo keeps them in the top three while Sunshine will drop to the second half of the league. If Sunshine wins, they leapfrog to the top six and will displace Remo from the top three.
Recent records favour the home side as they have returned to winning ways at home after their disappointing defeat to Akwa last month.
However, Sunshine Stars have been unable to keep a clean sheet in their last three games, which is a worrying thing for the manager but Remo Stars can boast of a compact defensive line.
However, Remo Stars are not a high-scoring side, unlike Sunshine Stars. The Sky Blue Stars’ highest goal-scoring game was its 3-0 thrashing on Heartland while Sunshine Stars have the clinical Leonard Ugochukwu in their ranks. But Sunday Alimi, a new player for Remo Stars might be the player to spark a goals rush for his team.
League Position: Remo Stars: 3rd, 26 points; Sunshine Stars: 8th, 23 points
Players to watch
Sunshine Stars: Leonard Ugochukwu, Babatunde Bello and Ikenna Cooper
Remo Stars: Andy Okpe, Nduka Junior and Dayo Ojo
Rivers United vs Shooting Stars
The league leaders will have to navigate past the Oluyole Warriors at Port Harcourt on Sunday to stay in the pole position on the NPFL log.
Rivers United have stayed unbeaten at home this season and thus Shooting Stars appear destined for another defeat on the road after the midweek nightmare when they could only force out a 1-1 draw against Abdul Maikaba’s Rangers at the Adamasignba stadium.
It will be a rude shock if 3SC pick a point in the Graden City let alone snatch the maximum points.
Position: Rivers United: 1st, 35 points; Shooting Stars: 12th, 20 points
Players to watch
Rivers United; Nyima Nwagua, Rafiu Ishaq and Chigozie Akuneto.
Shooting Stars: Kolawole Daniel, Ghali Falke, and Sunday Faleye
Plateau United vs Katsina United
Fidelis Ilechukwu has been one of the fascinating managers in the League this season. Aside from his charismatic style on the pitch, his celebrations after victory is second to none.
Up against relegation battlers, Katsina United at the New Jos Stadium, the Peace Boys are favourites for victory especially after seeing them mull Akwa United 3-0 in their last outing at home.
As for the visitors, despite their resounding 4-1 victory over fellow battlers, Dakkada, Katsina United have not won any game on the road this season.
While Katsina United have a 100% away defeat record, the reverse is the case for Plateau who have recorded 100% victories in all their home games in the league this season.
Position: Plateau United: 2nd, 34 points; Katsina United: 17th, 17 points
Players to watch
Plateau United: Izuchukwu Chimezie, Jesse Akila and Mohammed Zulkilful
Dakkada vs Enyimba
Relegation battlers, Dakkada will face a difficult side in, Enyimba at the Nest of Champions this weekend
Yet to find their bearing almost halfway into the season, Dakkada will seek better fortunes with an improved display against the People’s Elephant who themselves have not been fantastic lately.
Finidi George’s side only had a bit of relief during their last home game to Remo Stars. It was the first time the People’s Elephant will score two goals since January 29.
Position: Enyimba; 7th, 24 points; Dakkada: 19th, 15 points
Players to watch
Enyimba: Victor Mbaoma, Austin Oladapo, and Samuel Stones
Dakkada: Emmanuel Ayaosi
MFM vs Kwara United
It is easier to fall than to climb, which explains why the Olukoya Boys, who are unbeaten in their last four games, still occupy the base of the table in 20th position.
They welcome Kwara United to the Teslim Balogun Stadium with the hope of extending their unbeaten streak to five.
Kwara United haven’t had good moments on the road this season and have lost twice in South-west derbies to both Sunshine and Shooting Stars. In eight away matches, they have only managed three points.
Position: MFM; 20th, 15 points; Kwara United; 6th, 25 points.
Players to watch:
MFM: Akanni Elijah, Alimi Adebayo and Muyiwa Balogun
Kwara United: Alao Danbani, Stephen Jude and Muritala Lawal.
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