.NpfL.ng Previews Weekend’s Mouth-Watering Games –
The weekend arrives early for NPFL fans as the new season’s first Friday Night Football takes centre-stage at the prestigious Nest of Champions in Uyo on Friday evening in the first of seven league fixtures, reports Sam Nnaji for www.npfl.ng.
With three of the country’s continental campaigners all in action this weekend, Akwa United will kick-start the weekend action, squaring up against visiting Plateau United.
It has been a depressing fortnight for the Promise Keepers who were dumped out of the continent the last time they lined up at 7pm on home turf. First defeat on the ground for them but more significantly, hearts and promises broken as a fallout from that poor outing.
But that is not the only undertone for this encounter. In the opposite dugout would be a man, who has a thing or two to prove against the home side.
Plateau United coach, Zachary Baraje, who led the Uyo-based side to a first trophy in recent memory as well as the continental ticket but was dismissed by his former employers who went for the more experienced and revered Maurice Cooreman.
Baraje trots along with his Plateau United team who despite a less than impressive start to the season themselves, could be looking to spoil the party for his former side.
Next up would be the Sunday fixtures starting with the Oriental Derby in Umuahia. Table-topping Rangers would relish a fight against a side they have not lost to in the top-flight – Abia Warriors.
This fixture last season saw a six-goal thriller in which Chisom Chikatara netted a hat-trick but the Enugu-based side clawed themselves level at the death to ensure a share of the spoils. Two sides that love attacking football, it will only be a good spectacle for the fans.
New boys, Ikorodu United, travel to Nnewi to face a high-flying FC Ifeanyiubah. Barring the slump in Port Harcourt on Match Day 2, Mitko Dobrev’s men have remained unbeaten and came close to nicking maximum points off Sunshine Stars in Akure last weekend. Their guests have won just once this term and the harsh realities of life in the elite division is dawning on them.
Sunshine Stars that seem to have lost the verve that had them in the top four for most of last season and bogged down with managerial troubles will face Giwa FC in Jos; a tussle of two sides who ended up only as nearly achievers last term.
Kano Pillars are away at Lobi hoping to resume their goal scoring spree from the weekend. This fixture last season saw Pillars score thrice before the home team leveled things, scoring three second half goals. It is unlikely we would see a repeat but two teams sitting atop the pile should serve up some decent football.
In Lokoja, Niger Tornadoes will entertain Rivers United, who look a side truly reborn. Their home front has been formidable but question marks remain over their ability to dominate games and get good results away from home. It will be a test for Tornadoes themselves who have yet to get used to their adopted home ground.
For Lagos fans, the derby at the weekend served a reminder of what league football was like a decade ago. It did end in a draw but the growing numbers at the stadium show Lagos fans have missed this.
One of the Lagos teams, MFM FC, will welcome El-Kanemi Warriors to the Agege Stadium 4pm on Sunday. The visitors dealt Enyimba’s title defence a blow when they fired two past them in Katsina at the weekend.
It was a first win for them and they would be looking to build on that, but against MFM FC, that would be as mountainous a task as possible.