The second game-week of the year, the last one before the mid-season benchmark, promises excitement in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL), featuring mouthwatering derbies and compelling matchups across various match centres.
There will be five games on Saturday and another five on Monday instead of Sunday due to the Super Eagles match against Equatorial Guinea at the AFCON on the same day.
NPFL Matchday 18 preview
Bayelsa United seek redemption
This matchup brings unpredictability, with the home side struggling near the relegation zone. The departure of top scorer Robert Mizo adds to their challenges, as they face a Bendel Insurance side known for defensive resilience. Bayelsa now lack offensive firepower post-Mizo, making this encounter more challenging.
In Enugu, Gombe might find themselves overmatched against the Fidelis Ilechukwu-led Rangers, returning to the Cathedral where visiting teams often face a daunting task. The struggling Savannah team appears as underwhelming favourites and might leave this fixture with nothing but jerseys on their backs.
South West derby in Lagos
This is the first South West derby for Sporting Lagos at home since joining the top division in 2022, and they host Shooting Stars. It's a must-win for both sides. The away team narrowly secured a win in their last game against Bayelsa United. Sporting Lagos, currently in the relegation zone, aim to ease the pressure on their young gaffer Paul Offor.
Doma take United form to Umuahia
This clash promises to be one of the most tactical encounters of this matchday. Doma United, enjoying a Cinderella run this season, faces Abia Warriors, who remain undefeated at home. Doma United has shown commendable results on challenging grounds, setting the stage for an intriguing battle.
The aftermath of the turmoil in Owerri that saw Kennedy Boboye booted out for Christian Obi may or may not have settled, but the show must go on. Kwara United, still recovering from their home defeat in the North Central derby to Lobi Stars right at their home turf, aims to exploit any vulnerabilities the Naze Millionaires might exhibit.
The Harmony Boys are ready to seize any opportunity for redemption.
Sunshine Stars play their first home game in the new year, hosting Niger Tornadoes. The 2-0 loss to Remo in Ikenne on Matchday 17 dropped them to 11th place. Tornadoes, having defeated Heartland in the battle of the basement clubs, promise a fiery encounter at the Akure Township Stadium.
League leaders aim to sting Katsina
League leaders Remo Stars travel North, aiming to keep off Lobi Stars from going top. With two away wins already this season, the Ikenne boys won't back down without a fight in Katsina.
The Muhammad Dikko Stadium in Katsina isn’t an easy place to go to, but Remo will look to earn more points on the road and consolidate top spot.
Coming off a spirited away win in Ilorin, Lobi Stars aim to overtake Remo and go top against ‘Sai Masu Gida,' who haven't impressed on the road. However, after defeating Plateau United in their last game, they will look to draw inspiration from the win and rattle Lobi Stars in Lafia.
A South-South derby with both teams seeking a statement win. The ‘Promise Keepers' hope to replicate their last game week's tenacity after a 3-2 loss to Plateau, aiming for three points in Port-Harcourt. Akwa United have been underwhelming this season and sit just one point off the relegation zone. This game is a must-win for them.
One of the biggest ties of the game week as seventh-placed Plateau United face fourth-placed and defending champions Enyimba.
The Elephants will be without first-choice goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo, who is away on national duty with the Super Eagles as the clash with a compact Plateau United side at the New Jos Stadium, a spot they lost heavily last season and they will face an in-form Plateau United forward Albert Hilary who has scored nine goals with two assists this season.
NPFL fixtures in full
- Sporting Lagos vs Shooting Stars
- Bayelsa United vs Bendel Insurance
- Rangers International vs Gombe United
- Abia Warriors vs Doma United
- Heartland vs Kwara United
- Sunshine Stars vs Niger Tornadoes
- Katsina United vs Remo Stars
- Lobi Stars vs Kano Pillars
- Rivers United vs Akwa United
- Plateau United vs Enyimba