If the high-flying Bendel Insurance FC are going to be stopped from soaring out of sight in Group A of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) this season, this is the moment to achieve that as they travel to the home of the league’s most successful side, Enyimba International of Aba this afternoon.
This southern clash headlines the beginning of the second half of the well-organised 22/23 season. Both teams rounded off the first stanza in Benin with Insurance clinching the three points in a 1-0 win in February.
Enyimba would be looking to respond but Insurance have been seemingly invincible in what has become something of a storied season for the two-time champions in which they have remained unbeaten.
Scoring 23 points out of a possible 27 – after draws in two games – the Benin Arsenal are seven points clear of second-placed Enyimba. When you consider that the 10-team group boasts five past champions, Insurance success has been nothing short of remarkable.
Once again, the league’s leading scorers Chukwuemeka Obioma and Imade Osarenkhoe will hug the limelight in the Enyimba vs Insurance fixture today. Obioma’s seven goals put him one ahead of Osarenkhoe whose goal decided the contest when both sides clashed a month ago.
But then this is sport, football no less, and it’s never quite over until the fat lady sings.
Third-placed Akwa United have a decent chance to keep up pace with the frontrunners when they host struggling five-time champions, Shooting Stars of Ibadan.
In other games, Plateau United, who are fourth, host Gombe United; two spots below them.
Early season flyers Remo Stars have sunk to fifth after a run of poor results, but the Ikenne side bankrolled by billionaire sports betting tycoon, Kunle Soname, have a chance to bounce back against relegation-threatened northern visitors Nassarawa United.
In Group B, the picture at the top could change as the two leading sides face tricky opponents this weekend. Leaders Lobi Stars, who are on 19 points, travel to fifth-placed Doma United of Gombe, while defending champions Rivers United, a point behind the Group leaders, welcome fourth-placed Abia Warriors.
Seven-time champions Enugu Rangers will be hoping to revive their campaign when they host relegation-threatened Bayelsa United. Four defeats and three draws in the opening half of the season means the Flying Antelopes are in seventh place on 9 points while Bayelsa are a point and a place below.