CITIZENS FC v DANNAZ FC
Citizens showed signs of improvement from last season’s uninspiring campaign under new coach, Doyin Ajibike. His new look midfield and attack appeared to be more dangerous than it’s ever looked over the last two seasons but, sadly, this promise failed to translate into points as they lost both games on the opening day (to Alphas & Saints). Doyin Ajibike’s decision to rest a couple of key players in the first game against Alphas so he could field his stronger side in the late kickoff against Saints proved to be a costly rookie mistake. On Saturday, he’ll have the chance to redeem himself against Dannaz FC who are under no illusions on the difficulty of the game, as admitted by their coach. They know that with two losses already to their name, Citizens would come out swinging this weekend.
While Dannaz looked very impressive as a collective unit last matchday, one of the primary reasons they were able to come out with 3 points (on the opening day against Alphas) was the players’ individual ability to win their one on one battles. Alphas’ decision to deploy a man-marking defensive system rather than a zonal marking system played right into the hands of Dannaz who repeatedly took advantage of this.
With two games on Saturday, Dannaz’ squad depth would definitely be tested. So, there is a chance we could see a slightly different approach than what was on display on the opening day. For Citizens, they’ll need their new star striker, Shahin “Benzema” Alawam to start firing for them. He famously started last season slowly but once he took off, he could hardly be stopped. A little something for Dannaz to worry about.
SAINTS FC v ALPHAS FC
In Saints first of two games on Matchday 2, they face familiar opponents Alphas. Both teams met twice last season with Saints getting the win on both occasions, although, they were made to work really hard for both victories as a resilient Alphas side pushed them all the way.
Saints may have gotten a win (over Citizens) on the opening day of this season but they looked anything but convincing all day. Twice Citizens hit the woodwork and thrice Saints goal-keeper, Opeyemi pulled off almost impossible stops to keep them in the lead. Perhaps it was a championship hangover? Or Maybe it was the absence of League & Finals MVP, Nurudeen Olusesi and joint top scorer, Tolu Benson? Or maybe it was just a (somewhat) bad day in the office for new manager, Kunle Ibaru? Whatever it was, Saints are well aware of the standards they’ve set for themselves and that wasn’t nowhere near it.
Alphas, meanwhile, had one glaring problem on Matchday 1 & it was largely centered around their poor finishing. In the game against Dannaz, they created a decent number of chances but striker, Sheriff barely made any right decision. They looked much better after he got taken off and his replacement, Hoss, unselfishly got the assist for the consolation goal. They generally excelled when they had proper runners in attack which was evident in their 1-0 victory over Citizens, thanks to Mikky’s winning goal. With each passing minute, Alphas seem to be improving and its left to see if they’re finally ready to put to bed their biggest fears when they face Saints.
SAINTS FC v DANNAZ FC
When the fixtures list came out 6 weeks ago, this was billed the “Goliath vs David” battle. Now, it feels more like a “Goliath vs Goliath’s younger 8’2” brother” battle. Dannaz were nothing short of breathtaking in their opening fixture against Alphas, scoring 3 goals before Alphas grabbed a consolation 7 mins from the final whistle (which should have been ruled out for offside but, hey). They had a clean sweep of the Monthly awards in March winning the Player of the Month (Joshua Obakini), Manager of the Month (Danny Nazzal) & Goal of the Month (Onyeka Udeozor) awards. Not bad for a team in their very first season. Their second test is reigning SociaLiga Champions, Saints who’ve lost just two league games in two years.
The match ups this game provides are mouthwatering and should keep fans on the edge of their seats for the entire 70mins. Last season’s joint Golden Glove winners, Adewale Opeyemi (Saints) and Nelson Princewill (previously on loan to Raineri Ghost but now back to Dannaz) will be lining up on either sides of the pitch while Dannaz’ attacking duo, Onyeka Udeozor and Joshua Obakini would be battling with Saints’ Tolu Benson & Robert Odu for goals at either end. Saints’ Nurudeen Olusesi and Emeka Ikondu and Dannaz’ Precious Emmanuel & Biola Adebayo would be trying to win the battle out wide for their respective teams. Perhaps the most interesting battle be the battle for superiority in the middle of the pitch. Both teams highly favour an approach that relies on ball retention and dominance in the middle of the park. For some of these players, it would feel like playing against themselves judging by how similar their philosophies are. Saints’ new captain, Hassan Azeez could very well play a pivotal role in the outcome of this game. He’s be one of Saints’ unsung heroes over the last couple of seasons putting in outstanding displays in midfield and he will be called on to steer the game his team’s way.