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Clubs In Continental Tickets, Relegation Battles As NPFL Season Ends

The 2023/2024 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) season ends Sunday (today), with battles for survival and two CAF club competition tickets bringing the campaign to a nerve-wracking finale, with 760 matches prosecuted, Godwin Aikigbe reports

Enugu Rangers have already been declared the champions, with a CAF Champions League ticket in the kitty, and Flying Antelope are relatively unperturbed by the final day’s hostilities, which will see five clubs, Remo Stars, Enyimba, Shooting Stars, Plateau United, and Lobi Stars locked in battles for the remaining ticket and one of two for next year’s Confederation Cup.

Kano Pillars, Kwara United, Bayelsa United, Akwa United, and Sporting Lagos will be striving to sustain their elite division status.by not going down to the second tier alongside Doma United, Heartland, and Gombe United, whose fates have already been sealed.

Battles for continental tickets

Remo Stars are in second place with 62 points, five points adrift of Rangers. The Ikenne side are tentatively in possession of the second Champions League ticket, but a defeat at Abia Warriors could see them lose it to Enyimba in third place with 60 points, which could rise to 63 if they secure three points at home to Plateau United.

After losing their title to Rangers, the People’s Elephants are leaving no margin for errors to seal the ticket and have declared the gates open to fans to ensure maximum support for the team.

Shooting Stars are third with 59 points and could leapfrog both Remo Stars and Enyimba to the ticket with a home win over relegation-threatened Sporting Lagos at Adasimgba Stadium in Ibadan should Remo and Enyimba fail to win their matches. The Oluyole Warriors could also end up with a Confederation Cup ticket as a reward for their resurgence in the second half of the campaign.

Plateau United and Lobi Stars are tied at 58 points, with outside chances of nicking the Confederation Cup ticket with wins in their respective matches. Lobi Stars are away to Kano Pillars, who need a result to beat the drop, while Plateau United face a daunting trip to Enyimba.

Middle pack

While battles are raging at both ends of the standings, five clubs—Katsina United, Rivers United, Bendel Insurance, Sunshine Stars, and Abia Warriors—will be playing for pride in their respective matches, being lodged in the middle of the table, where they feel neither relegation heat nor involvement in the jostle for continental tickets.

Relegation battlers

Doma United (43), Heartland (38) and Gombe United (25) bring up the rear and have been confirmed for relegation to the Nigeria National League.

Kano Pillars (49), Kwara United (48), Niger Tornadoes (48), Bayelsa United (47), Akwa United (46), and Sporting Lagos (46) are all ankle-deep in the relegation waters, and their fate will be decided by the results of their respective matches, as one of them could go down.

Sporting Lagos and Bayelsa United have their work cut out playing away to Shooting Stars in a South-West derby and Bendel Insurance, respectively, while Akwa United, Kano Pillars, Kwara United, and Nigeria Tornadoes have less work and worry to do at home against Rivers United, Heartland, Lobi Stars, and Sunshine Stars, respectively.

However, being complacent could be their greatest undoing, as their opponents could pose banana peels playing with nothing at stake.

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