After a dramatic 2-2- draw between Katsina United and Kano Pillars yesterday, the NPFL will move a gear with nine matches to be played later today across the country.
SCORENigeria looks at the pick of these matches –
AKWA UNITED VS RANGERS
All roads will lead to the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo today after the opening season match between Katsina United and Kano Pillars in Katsina.
Akwa United and Rangers have been in the news for the right reasons during the transfer window.
The visiting Coal City Flying Antelopes made a shock addition of 17 new players including Felix Ogbuke and Ugonna Anyora. All were unveiled at a colourful ceremony in Enugu Thursday before they set off for the trip to Uyo 24 hours later.
Their state Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, held a sent forth dinner party for them Thursday night.
With such motivation, coach Gbenga Ogunbote proclaimed hé cannot settle for anything less than good football and good result.
With arrival of experienced goalkeeper Femi Thomas from Rivers United, Ogbuke and Ugonna Anyora from Europe, Beach Eagles star Abu Azeez from 3SC, Isaac Loute from FC Ifeanyibah and Solomon Okpako from Enyimba, Rangers on a good day have the potentials to pose a real threat to any team.
But their greatest undoing will be taking ‘The Promise Keepers’ for granted.
Coach Abdul Maikaba is a master tactician who varies his options with each game. His charges are always patient with the ball and will sting real hard and painfully when least expected.
NASARAWA UNITED VS PLATEAU UNITED
First-time champions Plateau United will begin their domestic title defence at next-door neighbours Nasarawa United.
Coach Kennedy Boboye has bolstered his squad to the hilt in readiness for their CAF Champions League baptism of fire in Cameroon next month.
The arrival of ex-junior international King Osanga highlights a major success on the transfer market and Nasarawa United will provide that litmus test to ascertain their preparedness for the continental soccer showpiece.
LOBI STARS VS ENYIMBA
This fixture any day, any time goes beyond the 22 players on the pitch. It somehow defies the technical expertise of the two coaches on the opposing dug-outs.
Most times, it centres around the two chairmen who are regardéd as the most experienced administrators in the country.
Enyimba, who will be playing in this year’s CAF Confederation Cup, will use this fixture, as well as the next five games to fine tune their strategy for their continental engagements.
But quite remarkably, Makurdi has never been a favourable ground for ‘The People’s Elephant’, who are chasing their eighth domestic league title this term.
FC IFEANYIUBAH VS YOBE DESERT STARS
After offloading a greater percentage of their last season’s big stars, FC Ifeanyiubah will welcome their newly promoted Yobe Desert Stars with a near-brand new squad.
‘The Anambra Warriors’ realised that by recruiting too many big stars last term, they were kind of fetching ant-infested firewood.
Now coach Ladan Bosso has assembled a highly disciplined side.
“If it were before, all of them will start milling around me for one complain or another’ a senior official retorted after a friendly as the players made for their bus stationed on the left hand side.
Their optimism of reaping from this new order will be put to test when Yobe Stars visit Nnewi.
The visitors are making a bold return to the big league after more than a decade in the lower league.
They are fully prepared, having recruited massively from Kano Pillars and Wikki Tourists.
They lost 2-0 at El Kanemi in their last warm-up before this trip.
RIVERS UNITED VS EL KANEMI WARRIORS
Rivers United welcome El Kanemi Warriors with a breath of fresh air.
‘The Pride of Rivers’ had a turbulent campaign last term. Internal squabbles, which rubbed off negatively on their continental campaign almost forced the team down.
But after managing to retain their Premier League place, coach Stanley Eguma did away with a good number of his under-performing players.
He also adjusted his backroom staff in readiness for the new season.
Coming face-to-face with “stubborn” El Kanemi in this crucial opener, Eguma knows nothing but victory will be acceptable.
“It is important to start winning from the first game. That is on our mind and we have a team that can give us victory,” he said.
“We have a team built around relatively young players but we have worked hard enough in our pre-season to expect the maximum points.”
Eguma also paid tribute to El Kanemi, saying they are a strong side.
“We respect every team, managed by a national team coach, Imama Amapakabo, so you underrate them at your own risk”.
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Heartland Vs Sunshine Stars
Wikki Tourists Vs Go Round
Abia Warriors Vs MFM
By Sab Osuji