The Predictor focuses on Lobi, Plateau
The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) has crossed the first quarter and Plateau United still remain top of the pile as Lobi Stars come calling this Wednesday in a top-five clash.
However I am sure one thing will not change after this matchweek - the top-two teams will remain the same on the standings as ABS, MFM FC and Lobi who complete the top-five play on the road.
The big boys, Enugu Rangers, Enyimba and Kano Pillars, have delicate contests in their hands to navigate.
Wednesday, 1 March, 2017
WIKKI TOURISTS v RIVERS UNITED
I did tip Rivers United to come away with the full points at the Akure Stadium against Sunshine Stars but instead they turned out disappointing, losing 0-1. May be their head coach, Stanley Eguma, should get some sticks for dropping Bernard Ovoke to the bench when his influence would have been handy. Now he leads his team to Bauchi against Wikki where he last won a league game 12 years ago.
Wikki now look like their pre-NPFL era teams which usually depend on home games to survive, eking out one-nil wins and struggling to score goals. I know this must be of huge concern to their head coach Mohammed Baba Ganaru. With an average of 0.75 goal per game, I am wondering where Wikki's goals will come from. However it is a question of: 'Will Eguma decide to put out his best legs and attack from the off?' I think a share of the points looks in the offing in this one.
My prediction: 0-0
ENUGU Rangers v ABS FC
I am sure the champions Rangers have rested their limbs very well now. No more complaints of fatigue after featuring in three games in six games. Rangers faithful now fear that their team are aping English champions Leicester, and need to respond after last Friday's defeat at MFM which consigned them to a bottom-four place though with two outstanding games to play.
It will be a first visit to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium now nicknamed The Cathedral by ABS FC in more than two years after returning to the top flight this term. Well the good news before this game is that ABS have never managed to score in this fixture, losing 0-1, 0-2 and 0-2 in only their three visits (including as Bukola Babes). I expect Rangers to pick themselves up and brush aside the Ilorin club.
My prediction: 2-0
KATSINA UNITED v MFM FC
Incredible goals can be rarer than hen's teeth these days but MFM winger Sikiru Olatunbosun's hit out of the park against champions last Friday would surely be a reminder for Katsina United that they are up against a team high on confidence. For me, it was not just the goal but the build-up to the strike was immaculate considering the mobility of the ball and players.
Katsina United have done well so far for themselves. This will be one interesting game especially in midfield when Destiny Ashadi who has sparkled for Katsina United comes up against the impressive Chukwuka Onuwa. One thing Katsina United will find out about MFM is their pace, power and improved game management which I think can earn them the full points.
My prediction: 0-1
REMO STARS v KANO PILLARS
Remo Stars surprised me and even themselves by earning a point at southwest rivals 3SC, anyway that is the stuff derbies are made of - unpredictability. And I must say that the Sky Blue Stars have a beast in Victor Mbaoma, no wonder he is captain of the team and leads by example. Now that is one man the Kano Pillars defence must track all afternoon this Wednesday.
In recent years, one thing I have taken note about Kano Pillars is that they have found difficult on the road against newly promoted sides. Ikorodu United, Nembe City and Crown FC are just a few of the newbies that have claimed the scalp of Pillars. I still do not think Pillars have turned the corner yet as I am tipping the Sky Blue Stars to nick this.
My prediction: 2-1
ENYIMBA v 3SC
This is always a difficult fixture for 3SC year in, year out since June 2004. They have lost all nine games of this fixture in more than 12 years. With their former manager Gbenga Ogunbote now in the setup of the Peoples Elephant, honestly it will be deceit to give 3SC faithful any sort of hope of getting a result at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar where Enyimba have made home pending the completion of repair works at their stadium in Aba.
Managing just two wins in nine games is surely be worrisome for 3SC especially with their next game against league leaders Plateau United to come. For this contest, 3SC look second best on paper but Enyimba will not have a stroll in the park anyway as they have also struggled to put points on the board.
My prediction: 1-0
PLATEAU UNITED v LOBI STARS
The second quarter of the season begins and certainly like myself, other keen followers of the NPFL, is watching to know if Kennedy Boboye will finally end that tag of being the first quarter manager as Plateau United play hosts to fifth-placed Lobi Stars at the Rwang Pam Stadium in Jos.
Suspended Lobi head coach Godwin Uwau finally quit his post this week but already Evans Ogenyi has taken charge in acting capacity but I doubt his team's capacity to leave Jos with a result. I know Lobi have got very good players in Solomon Kwambe, Kingsley Eduwo, Anthony Okpotu, Okiemute Odah and Anthony Agbaji but Plateau United are ready to grind out a home win and keep their 100 per cent record in front of their fans this season going.
My prediction: 1-0
GOMBE UNITED v FC IFEANYIUBAH
Cup holders FC Ifeanyiubah have lost all of their games in their travels in all competitions this season including four away NPFL matches at Kano Pillars, ABS FC, Wikki Tourists and Katsina United. It means FC Ifeanyiubah have failed to win or avoid defeat across the other side of the River Niger. And this is another journey up north too.
Gombe United since returning to the top division has maintained a mid-table position, and ahead of this contest they are one of FC Ifeanyiubah's bogey teams in the league. In six previous meetings they have only lost once to the Nnewi club when they were known as Gabros International FC. I do not think that will change in this game.
My prediction: 2-0
ABIA WARRIORS v NIGER TORNADOES
Four games on the spin and Abia Warriors have seen their good start to the campaign spin off course leading to their falling out of the top half of the standings. Tornadoes have surprised me with their performance and now look like a team that can ruffle big feathers. I must say that Abubakar Bala's decision to play the energetic Ebenezer Odeyemi in virtually all of their games since he joined has worked. He has linked up well with Chidiebere Ajoku plucked from Heartland.
But Tornadoes come up against their former coach in Abdullahi Biffo. Last season Biffo helped Warriors escape the drop but the club decided to bring in Okey Emordi who only resigned following a run of poor results. If there is one man who biffo will rely on for goals, it will be Sunday Adetunji. He has scored all of Abia Warriors' last four goals in the league in his last five appearances. So Tornadoes will make him a marked man though that will not stop Biffo's men from getting their first win in five league games.
My prediction: 1-0
EL-KANEMI WARRIORS v SUNSHINE STARS
El-Kanemi will still remember how Sunshine Stars squeezed the life out of them in this fixture last season in August 2016, only to win nick it 3-2. The unpleasant news for Ladan Bosso and his El-Kanemi team is that the Akure Gunners finally won a game (a 1-0 home win over Rivers United) in six games, and interestingly now have a four-game unbeaten run. In their last two travels they have played draws at Nasarawa United and Abia Warriors.
So El-Kanemi should be braced for some real scrutiny of their home form which they are keen to stretch to 19 successive wins since 10 April, 2016. I know Sunshine Stars will be dogged but I do not think they can keep Hussaini Bata, Bello Kofarmata and Samuel Mathias quiet for all 90 minutes.
My prediction: 1-0
Thursday, 2 March, 2017
NASARAWA UNITED v AKWA UNITED
It has a struggling start for the Solid Miners and this does not look like the right time to play against Akwa United who appear to have turned the corner and string together three games without a loss. And the Promise Keepers have avoided defeat in three of this last four fixtures - losing once (0-1) in 2015.
Nasarawa United will have to stop the like of Musa Newman, Moses Ebiye and Alhassan Ibrahim who have struck some sort of telepathy among themselves. But Akwa United head coach Abdu Maikaba's record at Nasarawa United is not pleasing as he has lost in his last two trips while with Wikki. However there are always a first.
My prediction: 1-2
•The Predictor scored above average this time, getting SIX correct results right with no perfect score out of 10 games in the previous matchday.