The weekend is upon us again, and while many will be looking forward to various occasions and ceremonies, football lovers all over the country will be happy to know that the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is back with Matchday 5.
The abridged version of the league had promised enough matches within a short space of time, and this has already been evident as the 5th matchday is upon us, barely 13 days from the league’s resumption.
Matchday 4 which took place on Wednesday saw a total of 14 goals scored across 12 match centers, 4 of which were accounted for by Akwa United and Plateau United in Uyo. The matchday recorded 7 wins all coming for the home sides, while 5 matches ended in a stalemate.
Just like its predecessor, Matchday 5 promises even more entertaining, mouth-watering fixtures in a weekend of football.
Port-Harcourt fans will witness league football again, for the first time since the league went on break as Rivers United play hosts to MFM FC at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium. Rivers have already played two matches this season, both ending in draws away from home.
Last time out at the Akure Township Stadium, they had the brilliance of Wasiu Jimoh to thank for that excellent volley to equalize, just 5 mins after going down by a goal.
Coach Stanley Eguma, who is the longest-serving current coach with a team in the league, will not want to disappoint the home fans as he will want to build on their superb away results so far.
Meanwhile, table toppers MFM FC led by Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu won’t want to let their position slip on the log. They come off the back of that home win over Rangers International in Lagos and goal scorer Adeniji Kabir will be looking to add to his tally.
MFM have only gained points at home this season and coach Fidelis will want his wards to do better on the road.
The Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi will welcome 2018 league winners Lobi Stars as they play hosts to visiting Kwara United. The champions who play their continental matches at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium will not want to disappoint the home fans who have stuck with them through thick and thin.
Coach Solomon Ogbeide rued the chances his wards missed as they played out a goalless draw with Enyimba in Aba.
Lobi Stars have so many matches to play this season, and as such, the gaffer will look to rotate his pack and try to pitch the fresh legs in every encounter. They welcome a Kwara side who are currently 2nd on the log.
Kwara United are on 5 points, but they have conceded more goals than they have scored, leaving them with a goal difference of -1.
Coach Abubarka Bala would want his side to improve their scoring prowess after playing out a goalless draw against Insurance in Benin.
Without a doubt, the match of the weekend takes place in the east. The oriental derby, one of the fiercest rivalry the league has witnessed and indeed a clash of Champions.
2016 champions Enugu Rangers will welcome neighbours and 2015 champions Enyimba to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. Both teams have won the league 7 times and pride is always at stake in this clash of the Titans.
After playing 3 games, Enyimba sit 3rd on the log with 4 points. They will want to put behind them, that disappointing scoreless draw at home to Lobi Stars in midweek.
Coach Usman Abdallah’s side rued chances missed by strikers Abdulrahman Bashir and Ibrahim Mustapha as they couldn’t make their numerical advantage count against a Lobi side that was reduced to 10 men.
The pairing of Ifeanyi
Meanwhile, current Aiteo Cup champions and Nigeria’s sole representative in the CAF Confederations Cup, Enugu Rangers led by Gbenga Ogunbote are still in search of their first point in the league this season.
They narrowly lost by 1 nil to MFM FC in Lagos and they will want to make amends as The People’s Elephants come trampling on their soil.
The Flying Antelopes will depend on firepower from the likes of Ajani Ibrahim, Kelvin Itoya to give them maximum points in this derby encounter.
Other matches for Group A include;
Wikki Tourists vs Sunshine Stars
Niger Tornadoes vs Bendel Insurance
Remo Stars vs Katsina United
Group B also provides us with interesting clashes one would look forward to.
In Damaturu, at the August 27 Stadium, Yobe Desert Stars will play hosts to log leaders Heartland of Owerri. Yobe played their first game of the season during midweek against FC Ifeanyi Ubah in Nnewi, where they lost by a lone goal.
Coach Ngozi Elechi rued his side’s loss to the injury sustained by Goalkeeper Victor Obiowo as that made him change his game plan.
They welcome the Naze Millionaires, a free-scoring side that has amassed a goal difference of 4, the highest any team has in the league this season.
Heartland young star and teenage sensation, Samuel Nnoshiri has proved so far to be a top quality player despite playing in his first season in the league at the age of seventeen
Coach Ramson Madu has heaped praise on the youngster and he’ll surely be expecting more from him as they aim to make it to the playoffs.
The Lafia township stadium will witness a double-header. First in the day, Plateau United will host former league champions Kano Pillars in a “home away from home” tie.
Plateau United, still fresh from snatching a draw from what looked like the jaws of defeat in Uyo during Matchday 4 will want to win all home ties as coach Abdu Maikaba will want to win the league having narrowly missed out on it with Akwa United last season.
He has the likes of Sikiru Olatunbosun, Godwin Obaje, Bernard Ovoke in his arsenal and will do anything to stop Pillars when they come calling.
Meanwhile, Kano Pillars will want to bounce back from that two-nil defeat at the Pantami Stadium to Gombe and send a message of their title intent to their rivals.
Coach Ibrahim Musa will expect more from strikers Shammah Tanze and Adamu Hassan both were caged in that time in Gombe.
The other match at the Lafia Township Stadium sees Nasarawa United welcome Akwa United.
Nasarawa lost to El-Kanemi during their midweek tie, no thanks to Anthony Sunday for popping up with the goal in the last minute of the tie. The solid miners will miss the services of defender Bello Abdullahi who saw red in their last game.
Katoh Haggai will be playing against his former side having left Akwa at the end of last season.
Meanwhile, Akwa United, who surprisingly find themselves at the wrong end of the table under
They have only managed 2 points out of a possible nine. Striker Mfon Udoh who set a 20 goal target has already scored twice and he takes that hunger with him to Lafia, as The Promise Keepers look to turn their season around.
Everton will be without the services of youngster Etboy Akpan after he sustained an injury in their previous game.
Nasarawa lost their last fixture and would want to make amends with this tie, while Akwa will want to inflict a second home loss on the solid miners to pile more pressure on their coach.
Other matches for group B include;
Go Round FC vs El-Kanemi Warriors
Kada City vs FC Ifeanyi Ubah
Abia Warriors vs Gombe United