By Diegwu Nwankwor
The race for supremacy and at the lower end, for survival in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) 2019/20 season reaches Matchday 23 this weekend.
Whether it’s at the top of table where Plateau United, Rivers United and Lobi Stars will be aiming to maintain their push for the title or at the bottom half of the table where teams like Nasarawa United, Kwara United, Abia Warriors, MFM FC, and Enugu Rangers will be fighting to either distance themselves from relegation, it promises to be an exciting round of fixtures. Here is www.ngfl.ng preview of some of the fixtures.
In Bauchi, it the fixture between hosts, Wikki Tourists, and table-topping Plateau United presents a tough test for the Jos- based visitors and a chance to make a statement for the Tourists that’s enjoyed a surge since the arrival of their new manager, Abdullah Usman.
It is easily the stand-out fixture of the weekend between two teams that have enjoyed contrasting forms and desperately needing all three points for different reasons.
For Plateau United, getting all three points will surely be a bigger announcement of their title ambitions considering that fellow title challengers, Rivers United and Lobi Stars are all playing at home and expected to earn all three points.
Wikki Tourists are however condemned to keep all three points to boost their push away from the relegation zone. The Tourists are currently three points off the relegation zone and will be banking on their recent improved home form since Abdallah took over. They are yet to drop points at home since the former Enyimba coach took over.
In Port Harcourt, Rivers United take on FC IfeanyiUbah in a tricky test for the home side that will be looking to maintain its title chase with another home win at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium Port Harcourt.
Rivers United go into the match having not lost its last four matches and after last weekend’s huge 2-0 win away to Heartland FC, it will be hard to bet against them this time.
FC IfeanyiUbah has an uphill task in this fixture given their away form this season.
The Anambra Warriors have picked up just one point on the road all season and have lost its last five away matches. Only Adamawa United and Jigawa Golden Stars have a worst record than them.
In Makurdi, there’s a make or mar fixture between title hopefuls, Lobi Stars and a resurgent Kano Pillars.
Lobi Stars will be looking to consolidate on their road win in Ilorin against Kwara United by taking all three points against former NPFL champions, Kano Pillars.
Lobi Stars’ home form has been shaky in recent weeks as they have won just once in three matches at home but they are up against Kano Pillars that do not also have a good away form as they are winless in the last five away matches.
Revenge will also be on the cards for Pillars as they lost 1-0 in the reverse at home in Kano. The match-up has all the trappings of a Cup final between the two sides that are considered among the top five front runners.
Sunshine Stars shared points in Umuahia with Abia Warriors following a 1-1 draw but both teams are clashing again sitting at different ends of the table and needing all three points for different reasons.
Sunshine Stars would be seeking all three points to keep its continental dreams alive and a win could see them go ahead of Akwa United who are not in action this weekend place the Akure side in touching distance with the top three.
Abia Warriors would cover a win to navigate away from the relegation group where they are just two points safe in 16th position.
In other fixtures, Dakkarda FC will be aiming to win its 1st match in five attempts when it faces Heartland FC that also will be looking to redeem the forfeited three points at home to Rivers United in last weekend’s shock home defeat.
MFM FC and Enugu Rangers will be looking to distance themselves from the relegation zone when they clash at the Agege Soccer Temple in Lagos. Both teams are just two points above the relegation zone.
NPFL Matchday 23 Fixtures
Adamawa United v Warri Wolves FC
Dakkada FC v Heartland
Jigawa Stars v Kwara Utd
Lobi Stars v Kano Pillars
MFM FC v Enugu Rangers
Nasarawa Utd v Katsina Utd
Rivers Utd v FC IfeanyiUba
Sunshine Stars v Abia Warriors
Wikki Tourist v Plateau Utd
Akwa Utd v Enyimba (PP)