After two rounds of matches at the ongoing 2022/23 Nigeria Professional Football League Super 6 playoffs in Lagos, the path to claiming the title and continental spots is as stiff as the competition that has been witnessed on the two match-days completed so far at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
However, match-day three is expected to open up the chase as the early leaders try to cushion their stance while slow starters are in battle to revive their challenge on Wednesday (today).
Bendel Insurance vs Enyimba (2pm)
The first contest on match-day three will see Bendel Insurance put their unbeaten credentials to test against eight times champions, Enyimba. Having both qualified from Group A in the regular season, the fixture will be the third meeting between both sides, with Insurance boasting of a win and a draw in their previous two meetings.
But things are changing for Insurance, who have already set an NPFL record of 20 games without a defeat this season. They have just one win in their last 10 league games (regular season and playoffs combined) and that was their 2-1 win over El-Kanemi Warriors in April.
Having picked only two points in the playoffs so far, the Benin Arsenal must beat Enyimba today to stand a chance of winning the league or even qualifying to play on the continent.
Unlike Insurance, Enyimba only have to deal with the pressure of keeping their momentum as they currently sit joint-top of the Super 6 table with four points from two matches. Their win over Lobi Stars on Monday was a huge relief, following their 2-2 draw against Remo Stars on opening day.
Another win for Enyimba will see their quest to win a ninth league title on track, while a different result will open up the race, depending on the results of other matches that will follow.
Sunshine Stars vs Remo Stars (4:30pm)
A southwest derby on no-man’s-land is perfectly poised as both Sunshine Stars and Remo Stars must win to revive their hopes in the playoffs.
With two dramatic draws earning them just two points so far, Remo Stars have been haunted by hard luck in the Super 6. After scoring a late winner to level up at 2-2 against Enyimba on Saturday, they almost picked a win against Rivers United on Monday with a stoppage time stunner from Olamilekan Adedayo, but their joy was short-lived as the champions responded immediately with the equaliser, before Remo’s bench could even stop celebrating what they thought was the match winner.
Although coach Daniel Ogunmodede managed to put up a smile during his post-match presser on Monday, he knew he had to turn the tide beginning from the next game. They seemed to have played their most difficult games and will be looking to push themselves over the line with the remaining three matches.
“We have a way of turning things around because we have nine points to fight for and that’s our focus. We believe it’s possible,” Ogunmodede said on Monday.
For the least fancied Sunshine, coach Edith Agoye remains optimistic about making something out of nothing.
Lobi Stars vs Rivers United (7:30pm)
The 2-2 draw against Remo Stars felt like a win for Rivers United because they almost lost the game at the death. Regardless of how knackered they were by Remo, the character they showed to score the stoppage time equaliser, just seconds after they conceded, is why they are primed to defend their title.
Currently joint-top of the Super 6 table with four points, Rivers must cushion the shock against Remo with a win against Lobi if they must stake a claim for the title.
Lobi Stars are currently bottom of the Super 6 table with just a point and it is safe to say they are paying the price of not taking their chances. In their first two games, the likes of Joseph Atule, Kumagar Suur and Abba Umar showed flashes but had nothing to show for it as they drew goalless against Bendel Insurance before being pipped 1-0 by Enyimba.
Revival won’t come easy for them against Rivers United but the Makurdi side must show grit if they are to return home with something at the end of the playoffs.
“We will psyche the boys up, we have three more matches to go. Things can still change,” coach Baba Ganaru said after Lobi’s 1-0 loss to Enyimba on Monday.