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NPFL 2016 Match Day 1 Preview: Enyimba begin title defence

20/02/2016

/ by Imhons Erons

The Nigeria Professional Football League is back, and with it the frills and thrills associated with the top flight of Africa’s biggest nation. Enyimba FC are the league’s defending champions but the likes of Kano Pillars, Sunshine Stars, Warri Wolves and Rangers FC will be expected to challenge them for the title. 

SoccerNet Nigeria's Imhons Sunny previews all the NPFL matches to be played this weekend. 

Plateau United vs Niger Tornadoes
This is the only match to be played on Saturday and it’s the battle of the newcomers as the Jos miners battle it out with the Minna lords.
Every point counts and the two sides will know that the sooner they get points on board the better for their survival chances.

United got promoted after topping the Nigeria National League Group A1 while Tornadoes earned promotion after winning Group A2. Interestingly, both teams have Premier League experience: United spent only one season in the top flight before getting sent right back to the lower cadre in 2012, the same year Tornadoes also got relegated. 

Giwa FC vs FC Ifeanyi Ubah
Giwa FC under the guidance of former Nigerian international, Duke Udi, will attempt to ambush the Easterners as the two sides clash on Sunday. 

The Jos-based side enjoyed a spectacular season last term, narrowly missing a continental spot by goal difference, and will look to go a step further this season. There is no better way to start than play host to a side that ended last season a mere 5 points above the relegation zone.

Nasarawa United vs MFM FC
The CAF Confederations Cup campaigner will play host to the self-acclaimed “best football playing church in the world” who are enjoying their first ever appearance in Nigeria’s premier league.  

The gods are certainly not partial when it comes to a football match and the Lafia giants who finished last season strongly - climbing above sunshine Stars to third - remain firm favourite to pick all three points at the Lafia Township Stadium.

Rivers United vs Enyimba Int’l
The defending champions’ first run out this campaign is away in the oil-rich city of Port Harcourt where Rivers United, formerly known as Dolphins FC, stay lurking.

Rivers United escaped relegation by the whiskers last term but will fancy their chances against the champions in front of the vociferous Port Harcourt fans.
The People’s Elephant have not been in great form since lifting the title, losing the first leg of their CAF Champions League qualifier against Vipers and the season-opening Charity Cup to Akwa United.

However, Enyimba hold a good record against Rivers United, having not lost to them in their last 4 league games, winning three and drawing once. 

Shooting Stars vs Lobi Stars
Only six points and five places separated these two sides in the 2014/15 season, with Shooting Stars more positively placed.
The Oluyole Warriors won this fixture by three unreplied goals last term and drew the return leg in Makurdi. A repeat performance would be much celebrated in Ibadan. 

Sunshine Stars vs Akwa United
Inexperience certainly cost the Akure Arsenal dearly last term as they lost out in the title race and then lost out in the place for continental spots completely. 

Their visitors however were at the verge of getting relegated last season until a win in the final match day fixture lifted them to 15th on the log.

The Maurice Cooreman-led side, who amazingly emerged Charity Cup winners, will however fancy their chances against a Sunshine Stars that has lost two of their most influential figures in head coach Kennedy Boboye and top striker Tunde Adeniji.

Ikorodu United vs Abia Warriors
The NPFL finally returns to Lagos, the nation’s most populous state, as Ikorodu United begin life in Nigeria’s top flight.

The Oga Boys’ first taste of league football will however be against Abia Warriors who have been impressive in their pre season games, recently winning a five-team tournament at the Lead City University in Ibadan.
The match between Ikorodu United and Abia Warriors will get underway by 4pm on Sunday.

Heartland FC vs Warri Wolves
Last season’s seventh-placed team host the league runners-up in what easily should be the highlight match of the weekend.
What better way to start the new NPFL season than to pit two title hopefuls against each other? 

Heartland against Wolves fixture has always been the homers take it all affair but the visitors must have learnt from their heartbreak last term that every point counts, especially against fellow title rivals.

Kano Pillars vs Rangers FC
It’s the battle of the titans as two former champions face off in the eternal city of Kano.
The Sani Abacha Stadium will on Sunday bear the brunt as Masu Gida entertains Rangers in what promises to be a cracker. 

Of the four times the two sides have met in the league over the last two seasons, both sides have won two games each with the home side always having the advantage. Rangers will have to turn the tables against the odds to start their title charge on a positive note.

El-Kanemi Warriors vs Wikki Tourists
It’s a Northern warfare when Warriors clash with the Tourists on Sunday.
Wikki were one of the league’s high-flyers last campaign and know that a repeat outing this season will immensely satisfy their ever-demanding fans. 

Warriors may have finish just above the relegation spots last term, but they are no push-overs and will look to avoid a repeat of the performances that nearly got them sent down to the trenches.


 The Complete NPFL Match day 1 Fixture
 
Plateau United vs Niger Tornadoes
Giwa FC vs FC Ifeanyi Ubah
Nasarawa United vs MFM FC
Rivers United vs Enyimba Int’l
Shooting Stars vs Lobi Stars
Sunshine Stars vs Akwa United
Ikorodu United vs Abia Warriors
Heartland FC vs Warri Wolves
Kano Pillars vs Rangers FC
El-Kanemi Warriors vs Wikki Tourists

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