After observing a one-month break, the second round of the 2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), is set to resume this weekend with week 20 matches at venues across the country.
Jigawa Golden Stars will host Lobi Stars on Saturday at the once magnificent Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna to raise the curtain on second-round hostilities.
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The remaining week 20 matches will be held tomorrow as the top dogs battle for the available continental tickets and the relegation threatened minnows struggle to survive.
It will be recalled that the league went on break from April 5 after week 19 matches with Kwara United going into the recess as table toppers.
The ‘Afonja Warriors’ amassed 36 points from possible 57 to lead the chasing pack followed by Kano Pillars (36) with lesser goal difference, Akwa United (34), Rivers United (32) and Rangers in fifth place (30) plus a game in hand.
However, after playing 2-2 draw with FC IfeanyiUbah in a rescheduled match on Wednesday, Enyimba FC overtook Rangers to climb to the fifth position with 31 points.
While the top five clubs are poised to consolidate on their performances in the first round in search of continental tickets, the five clubs at the base of the log, after abysmal performances are faced with a bleak future as they try to maintain their premiership status.
At the end of the first round, Sunshine Stars of Akure, Warri Wolves, Katsina United, FC IfeanyiUbah and Adamawa United are neck deep in relegation waters.
There may be a glimmer of hope for Sunshine Stars and Warri Wolves but the fate of the trio of Katsina United, FC IfeanyiUbah and already already relegated Adamawa United is hanging in the balance.
A look at the table shows that the ‘Akure gunners’ as Sunshine Stars are called have managed only four wins, seven draws and suffered eight losses to place 16th on the table with 19 points.
Their victories came against FC IfeanyiUbah, Warri Wolves, Dakkada and Enugu Rangers just as they suffered defeats at Jigawa Golden Stars, MFM, Abia Warriors, Kwara United (home), Kano Pillars, Plateau United, Enyimba (home) and Rivers United.
They, however, managed three away draws at Wikki Tourists, katsina United and Akwa United as well as home draws against Lobi Stars, Heartland, Adamawa United and Nasarawa United.
With a paltry 19 points, Sunshine Stars are no doubt in a precarious position but the Media Officer of the club, Chris Okunnuwa is confident the ‘gunners’ will survive the drop.
“We will improve on what we have done in the first stanza. The club is putting measures in place with the technical crew to ensure we stay in the league coming season.
“We know the league is tough at the moment but we are very confident we will be playing in the top flight next season.
“Our players are motivated. They have rested well and have equally been training seriously ahead of the resumption of the league,” he said.
Warri Wolves are 17th on the table with five wins, three draws and 11 losses. Before the end of the first round, they were compelled to sack technical adviser, Evans Ogenyi at week 16 after the 0-0 draw at home against Jigawa Golden Stars.
Coach Paul Offor who took over, guided the clawless Wolves to 1-1 draw at Heartland and a 3-1 win at home against FC IfeanyiUbah before the slim 0-1 loss at Kano Pillars in the last match of the round.
Going by the glimmer of hope in the camp of Wolves, one of their youngsters, Daniel Agwaza Jnr is optimistic as he said it will be a fight to finish for his team.
“I want to say ill-luck contributed significantly to some of the defeats we suffered. We were not playing badly but in most of our matches, luck simply refused to smile at us.
“We have put behind us the first stanza of the league. Our focus is on how to keep Warri Wolves in the topflight.
“It is not going to be an easy assignment but we are determined to save ourselves the embarrassment that will befall us, if we fail to redeem this situation,” he said.
Agwaza, however, appealed to the management of the club to continue to motivate the players as he said all hands must be on deck to save Warri Wolves from relegation.
For Katsina United, it is a sad tale of five wins, three draws and 11 losses, resulting in only 18 points out of a possible 57.
As part of efforts to save themselves from imminent relegation, Katsina United recently appointed former Hilal of Sudan gaffer, Azeez Mohammed to lead them out trouble.
Their former technical adviser, Baldwin Bazuaye has dropped to the position of Head Coach as the battle for survival begins tomorrow against Wikki Tourists at the Muhammadu Dikko stadium in Katsina.
The captain of Katsina United, Usman Bara’u told Trust Sports that surviving the drop is an uphill task but they are ready for the relegation fight.
He said “We don’t need a seer to tell us what is before us. The task before us is big but it must be accomplished.
“The good thing is that we have not gone to sleep. We’ve been working hard on the lapses that dragged us back in the first round.
“The management has beefed up our squad with at least 12 new players and we have a new technical adviser who is eager to lead us out of the danger zone.”
However, Katsina United will be without bullish attacking winger, Joseph Atule who has ‘jumped’ ship and is presently with his home club, Lobi Stars for the remaining part of the season.
And supporters of FC IfeanyiUbah are also perplexed as to why their darling club has recorded only three victories, seven draws and eight defeats to place 19th on the table with only 17 points.
The ‘Nnewi millionaires’ are also in a quagmire but Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Enyimba in the rescheduled week 14 match will serve as a morale booster.
Surely, they will try to build on the crucial away draw as they fight to retain their NPFL spot. FC Ifeanyi Ubah will host MFM who are also hovering around the drop zone on Sunday.
Anything short of victory against MFM, will seriously threaten the survival of the ‘Nnewi millionaires’ who are already gasping for breath at the moment.
For Adamawa United, their relegation can be said to be signed and sealed as only something in the shape of the Damaan miracle performed in 1989 by the Flying Eagles against Russia can save them from playing in the National League next season.
Out of 19 matches, Adamawa United have managed to pick only two victories at home against Lobi Stars and Dakkada as well as six draws and 11 defeats to place last on the table with only 12 points from a possible 57 points.