Two more teams will confirm their drop to the second tier of Nigerian league football when curtains fall on 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League season on Saturday.
Two sides that gained promotion at the start of the season, Gombe United and Remo Stars have already booked their return to the Nigerian National League (NNL) but two other teams must join them on the final day of the season.
Mathematically, all teams in the second half of the league table are not guaranteed safety going into the final day of the season in what is an unprecedented situation. Realistically though, only two teams from 13th to 18th will join the already condemned duo (Remo Stars and Gombe United).
Relegated duo still have a say
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Having sealed their fate weeks before the final day, Gombe United and Remo Stars still have a part to play in determining which two teams will join them in the lower league next term.
Gombe United especially, have a date at home with their neighbours Wikki Tourists who occupy the last relegation spot at the moment. Wikki’s survival hopes permanently rest in the hands of the already relegated Desert Scorpions and will be looking unto them for their resting place in the NPFL.
Remo Stars have willingly donated free maximum points to their opponents in their last seven league games and Sunshine Stars (who have adopted Ijebu-Ode, near Remo’s base Sagamu as their home ground) will hope to benefit from the Remo largesse to cement their place in the top flight next season.
ABS need a record win to stay up
We have had strange results in Nigerian football in recent years, most notably in 2013 when Plateau United Feeders defeated Akurba FC 79-0 and Police Machine FC demolished Bubayaro FC 67-0 in Amateur league playoffs. All four clubs were suspended indefinitely.
With such actions in mind, teams will be more conscious in the NPFL this weekend but Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS) FC need such miraculous scoreline away at Nasarawa United should they hope to avoid the drop. They have a ridiculous -12 goals difference, something that puts them at serious disadvantage in the midst of relegation battlers.
In the absence of a 10-0 scoreline – which will be a record in the top flight – ABS will hope that Gombe United beat Wikki Tourists in Gombe while Niger Tornadoes also beat Shooting Stars in Lokoja. The latter a sure possibility, seeing that Tornadoes also have their safety being questioned but the former, an unlikely event.
Rivers, Katsina United safe as long as they stay disciplined
Both Rivers United and Katsina United know they do not desperately need a win to stay up for next term. Both teams are on 52 points with creditable goals difference but they must avoid losing scandalously on their trips to Umuahia and Calabar respectively on Saturday.
Their opponents on Saturday also have things they are fighting for. Abia Warriors are 15th on the log and need full points against Rivers to be guaranteed of safety while Katsina’s hosts, Enyimba are currently occupying 3rd spot on the log with a victory over the Changi Boys assuring their return to continental football next year.
13th – Sunshine Stars 51pts
14th – Niger Tornadoes 51pts
15th – Abia Warriors 50pts
16th – Shooting Stars 50pts
17th – Wikki Tourists 50pts
18th – ABS 49pts
They must win at bonanza side, Remo Stars. A draw will put them in serious danger of staying up let alone a defeat going by results in other venues.
They play at home in Lokoja and must beat Shooting Stars to guarantee safety. A draw will also put their stay up in jeopardy.
They must also win their home game against Rivers United with a draw likely to condemn them to the second tier.
A win and nothing but a win is what they need in Lokoja. Anything short of that, it is bye bye to the Oluyole Warriors.
Bala Nikyu’s men also need an outright victory at relegated Gombe United. Any other result short of that will spell doom for them.
Road to safety – Wikki’s Abubakar Lawal (2nd from right) showing his mates the way.
Most difficult game and task of the lot. They need to win at Nasarawa United who are unbeaten at home this season. To be sure of safety though, they need to erase their -12 goals difference to at least narrow it down to -2, meaning they need to score ten unreplied goals – a near impossibility.
ABS and Shooting Stars will go down as they will fall short on the results expected of them i.e heavy win at Nasarawa and any kind of win at Tornadoes respectively.
Sunshine Stars will beat Remo Stars while Abia Warriors and Wikki Tourists will also win their respective games.
Do you agree with these predictions and permutations? Let me know your agreement or disagreements in the comment sections.