Without kicking a ball, Rivers United may be crowned champions of this season’s Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). And given Plateau United’s recent form, this prospect is not farfetched.
In second place since Matchday 14, Plateau United arrived in Uyo to face Akwa United in one of Saturday’s two fixtures with no point in six away games. The consequence of another defeat is that Rivers United will be untouchable on account of a 10-point gap established over the Jos side who will then have three matches remaining to end the season.
The Tin City side walloped Akwa United 3-0 on Matchday 15, so it’s payback time for Akwa United who are faintingly in contention for No 3, which brings continental football next season. The outgoing champions must win all their remaining four matches and wish other club sides ahead of them misfortune. There’s a gulf of five points and five steps between the Promise Keepers and third placed Remo Stars.
The players are expected to be in their best form with the news that Super Eagles head coach José Peseiro arrived Uyo on Saturday morning to watch the clash at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
Akwa United’s head coach Ayodeji Ayeni told www.akwaunitedfc.com that the team’s target is to finish the season strong, explaining that the remaining matches would be pivotal to achieving that goal. He said: “We still have four points to fight for and the outcome will determine how we are going to finish our season… I have talked with my players about the importance of these last four games, staring with Saturday’s match against Plateau United. We have to stand up and be counted because we can’t afford to drop any more points especially at home, and that is why we have to win this game”.
Like Akwa United, Kwara United, who are also chasing continental football qualification, will be going up against Niger Tornadoes, leaders in the relegation zone. The United of Kwara are better positioned than the United of Akwa, although at just one point and one place behind Remo Stars.
In a rescheduled fixture on Wednesday at the New Jos Stadium, Tornadoes suffered reverses losing that “home” game to Lobi Stars 0-1. That setback kept the Ikon Allah Boys at the drop zone as they desperately seek for a way of not returning back to the lower division after just a season. Tornadoes will be playing at their adopted ground – Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna – this time.
The encounter is Tornadoes’ third NPFL game in eight days against North Central fellow oppositions having defeated Nasarawa United before the Lobi game. They have played eight home matches in Kaduna and won all, except for Lobi’s game which was marred with crisis and later replayed in Jos.
The boys have put behind them the painful defeat in mid-week as evidenced in their early Friday morning walk out ahead of Saturday’s top contest.
Kwara United edged Tornadoes 1-0 in the reverse fixture at the Kwara Sports Complex.
Saturday’s games: Akwa United v Plateau United, Niger Tornadoes v Kwara United (both 4 pm)
Sunday’s fixtures: Nasarawa United v Rivers United, Katsina United v Remo Stars, Gombe United v Wikki Tourists, Kano Pillars v Rangers, Sunshine Stars v MFM, Shooting Stars v Abia Warriors, Lobi Stars v Dakkada FC, Enyimba v Heartland (all 4pm)