Sunday the 2nd of October sees the final round of games in the NPFL take place, in nine centers across the country, there will be intriguing matches but the attention of many will be glued to four major centers where the stakes are still high and will determine certain moderation to be made to various positions on the log. At the Cathedral in Enugu, Rangers are close to ending a 32 year drought, In Agege, Lagos, the God of Yahweh is expected to be physically present for the MFM lads as Ifeanyi Uba FC comes to town, In Jos, Heartland will be seeking for a major upset, while over in Warri, the Wolves will be haunting the boys from Ikorodu and hoping other results go their way, here is my preview of what is now a trending hashtag all over the social media sphere, welcome to the #NPFLFINALDAY
NPFL Final Day
The Nigeria Professional Football League is one I have done my best to avoid in the past based on a plethora of ugly reasons, this season has not been largely different but amidst the negatives, there are glaring positives portraying the good work of the League Management Company (LMC). One of these positives have to be the competitive nature of the league this season as we enter the final weekend, whilst the winner of the league is almost ascertained as Enugu Rangers are just a point away from securing the title after 32 years, the Flying Antelopes have won four of their last five games including an impressive win away at Ikorodu United in Week 37 and are expected to get the job done at home to El Kanemi Warriors, the spot for the remaining Champions league slot is still open as Rivers United who are in second place are just one point above Ifeanyi Ubah in third and three more than Wikki Tourist who have a superior goal difference in fourth. Here are the permutations, second placed Rivers United are away at Akwa United, who really don’t have much to play for but in a league where away wins are sacred, odds are on that Rivers United will lose and remain on 57 points, third place Ifeanyi Ubah FC, who have been involved in a fair share of controversies all season which again reared its head in the Federation Cup win over Crown FC are also away at the Agege Stadium where they are visitors to relegation threatened MFM, I do not see Ifeanyi Ubah getting any point from this fixture and as such they would also end the campaign with 56 points, now fourth place Wikki Tourist who have a plus seven goal difference over Rivers United are at home to Sunshine Stars who stand and outside chance of a Confederations cup ticket, Wikki should win this and usurp Rivers United to end the season in second place behind Enugu Rangers earning a Champions League slot.
Now the relegation battle, which is the most interesting and most talked about in years sees two teams down already, Giwa FC having being disqualified from the league and Ikorodu United confirmed relegated, four teams hover around the relegation zone with two teams set to go down after these last round of games. 15th place Abia Warriors are the only ones who will be sleeping easy entering this weekend’s fixtures as they have 45 points, two better than Heartland and three over MFM and Warri Wolves but Abia Warriors need just a draw to be safe and they will be hosting Shooting Stars at home in a game where I expect them to get maximum points. Heartland FC are 16th on the log, a place and just a point above the relegation zone, a win will secure Heartland their place in the Professional League for next season but this comes at the cost of an away trip to Plateau United of Jos who have a pretty enviable home record, all things being equal, I do not see Heartland getting any point from this game and thus will end their campaign on 43 points, MFM are 17th on the log and are at home to Ifeanyi Ubah FC in what is the star game of the final weekend.
For many of us who previously didn’t pay much attention to the league, MFM has endeared us this season and created more awareness to the league, they started the season pretty well but have since fallen off and struggled in recent weeks to even pick points at home. The Agege Stadium will be packed full this weekend in a battle of survival, the boys from the church take on the boys from the Oil tycoon, with the support of their fans and the reward that lies ahead, MFM should get all three points and move onto 45 points which I believe will see them retain their place in the league. ‘Sunday’s match to Ifeanyi Ubah is more than a football match to me…. My career as a coach is tied to it’, Coach Fidelis Ilechuckwu of MFM said.
Warri Wolves are also on 42 points but with an inferior goal difference to MFM and play host to Ikorodu United in a game I expect them to win but with all eyes on the league this weekend, I struggle to see how they can score more than 5 un-replied goals to stand any chance to survival.
It has been an interesting season, one that has thrown all forms of drama and is set to climax in added frenzy, the LMC have done an amazing job but they still have plenty more to do and hopefully they can use this final day to further set standards in terms of officiating, proper supervision and crowd control. The Cathedral has been thrown open for Enugu fans this weekend as arguably the coach of the season Imama Amapakapo finally gets his crowning moment, with Ikorodu United down, it will be pretty sad for Lagos fans to see yet another one go down but MFM should get the needed win to ensure survival. If you are at any of the cities, do turn up at the stadiums and support what has truly been a good and exciting season.
Here are my top and bottom four predictions after Sunday’s final games.
1st – Enugu Rangers
2nd – Wikki Tourist
3rd – Rivers United
4th – Ifeanyi Uba FC
Enugu Rangers and Wikki Tourist to earn the CAF Champions league places whilst Rivers United settle for the CAF Confederation cup slot.
17th – Warri Wolves
18th – Heartland
19th – Ikorodu United
20th – Giwa FC
MFM to somehow survive and Heartland to get relegated for the first time in the history of the league.