A new twist is in the offing at the end of Matchday 21 in the title race for the 2019/20 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season as the two top sides clash at the Aper Aku Stadium Makurdi on Sunday.
The clash between leaders, Plateau United and second placed Lobi Stars is easily the pick for the day.
Asides this venue, other interesting games are lined up for the weekend, including dates between Rivers United and Kano Pillars, as well as the clash between Nasawara United and eight-time champions, Enyimba International in Lafia.
www.npfl.ng, takes a look at what fans should expect over the weekend.
Lobi v Plateau
It could be one of the defining games of the season, as the top two clash. Lobi boasts of an excellent record at home, with only Dakkada FC and Rangers the only teams that have left Makurdi with a point each. But they have brushed aside eight other teams that visited their home turf.
Plateau on the other hand, have been unable to turn in impressive results away from home, since winning their first two games away from home against Jigawa Golden Stars and Kwara United respectively.
Both sides are aware of the importance of the outcome of the fixture to the look of the log as Plateau could widen the gap to four points if they defeat Lobi, which could also be reduced to three, if Rivers United secure a win at home to visiting Kano Pillars.
However, the tide could turn as Lobi could establish a two points lead if the defeat Plateau. The lead could as well be pegged to just a point if Rivers win in Port Harcourt. A draw will be enough to keep the Jos side at the summit, but Rivers could with a win leapfrog Lobi Stars to second spot.
Lobi will be banking on the partnership of Samad Kadiri with new signing Utibe Arit. The former Dakkada FC player has brought some spark into the front line of Ogunbote’s side.
Abdu Maikaba is expected to adopt the familiar attacking midfield base approach, hoping the tenacity of Umar Abba and Isa Ndala will provide the necessary fulcrum to propel his Plateau side to dominate the fixture.
Rivers v Pillars
While monitoring the outcome of the game involving Lobi Stars and Plateau United, Rivers have a tough task of ensuring they keep up the pressure on the top two, when they host Kano Pillars at the Yakubu Gowom Stadium.
Both sides have met seven times, with each winning twice and spoils shared thrice. Asides Plateau United who have let in twelve, Rivers United have am impressive record defensively, letting in a goal higher (13) in twenty match days.
This could be key to them going into fixture. Pillars have also conceded similar number of goals (13), but have scored the same with Rivers (20). A win for Rivers could propel Rivers to second spot, while a win for Pillars could take them a place or two better on the log.
Battle to beat the drop
Attention is also on the lower end of the log, as Adamawa United, Nasrawa United, Jigawa Golden Stars and Warri Wolves look forward to better their chances of beating the drop with eighteen games to wrap up the campaign.
Adamawa United will be hoping to keep alive dreams of a stay in the top flight next season when they host FC IfeanyiUbah. A win could lift them to 19th place, depending on the outcome of the game involving Nasarawa United and Enyimba FC.
Nasrawa United hopes of beating the drop will be tested with the visit of eight-time champions Enyimba of Aba. Fatai Osho’s men will be hoping to extend the winning streak to six, with a third possible successive win away from home. Enyimba who are six points adrift of leaders Plateau (with three games to spare) could move to third spot if Rivers and Akwa United lose to their respective home games against Pillars and Warri Wolves.
Northern neighbours Jigawa Golden Stars are locked in relegation waters just like Adamawa and Nasarawa United. They await Wikki Tourists at home. A win for them may not change much in terms of their positioning, except they hit at least seven goals past their visitors, hoping Warri Wolves will not get a positive result in Uyo, when they face Akwa United FC.
Matchday 22 Fixtures:
Jigawa GS v Wikki
Lobi Stars v Plateau Utd
Rivers Utd v Kano Pillars
MFM v Heartland
Adamawa v FC Ifeanyi Uba
Sunshine Stars v Rangers
Akwa Utd v Warri Wolves
Katsina Utd v Abia Warriors
Nasarawa Utd v Enyimba