It promises to be an exciting weekend for the fans when the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) kicks off on Saturday....
It promises to be an exciting weekend for the fans when the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) kicks off on Saturday.
There were tremendous improvements in the league last season especially with teams winning away from home – 31 away wins in the league to record the highest number of such wins in 10 years.
A total of 817 goals were scored last season making it the second highest ever after last season’s tally of 836, while average attendance has been put at 8,000, the highest in 15 years.
The clubs have been busy in the transfer market and they have featured in several pre-season tournaments and friendlies to prepare for the new campaign.
|The logo of the Nigeria Professional Football League (without a Title sponsor)|
However, some of the stars who sparkled last season have left for greener pastures overseas.
They include last season's top scorer with 17 goals Gbolahan Salami, who is now with KuPS of Finland alongside Wolves skipper Azubuike Egwuekwe; Akwa United's Aniekpeno Udoh and Shuaibu Ibrahim of Giwa FC have joined Norwegian clubs Viking and FC Hangesund, respectively.
Abia Warriors star striker Chisom Chikatara has left for Wydad Casablanca in Morocco after 13 goals last season and four goals at the recent CHAN in Rwanda.
Coming in the opposite direction are Osanga King, who has played in France and Tunisia, ex-Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa midfielder Solomon Okpako and Sadiq Yusuf, who played in Norway before he returned home to join Kano Pillars.
|Warri Wolves lost a lot of players including top scorer Gbolahan Salami but signed experienced frontman King Osanga as well as 11 other players|
The league still boosts quality in the likes of record league hotshot Mfon Udoh, Ezekiel Bassey, Ubong Ekpai, Ifeanyi Matthew and Austin Obaroakpo.
Seven-time champions Enyimba remain the team to beat with Kano Pillars, who have recruited several top stars like Prince Aggreh and Chris Madaki from the CHAN Eagles, Akwa United, Nasarawa United and Warri Wolves all primed to mount a serious challenge for the top prize.
Last season, Giwa was the surprise package of the league as they recorded many unbelievable results and almost clinched a continental ticket.
Such is also expected this season as Akwa United, who have battled against relegation for the past three seasons, look set to spring some surprises.
|Akwa United will be gunning for the title after winning the Federation cup, Super 4, as well as the charity shield|
In November, they won a first-ever Federation Cup and they followed this up by emerging tops at the pre-season Super 4, which included Enyimba and Warri Wolves, before they stopped Enyimba on Wednesday to clinch the Charity Shield to usher in the new season.
They have an experienced and proven coach in the Belgian Maurice Cooreman, who has worked at several other clubs including Enyimba and Ikorodu United.
Five seasons after they last played in the top flight, Plateau United will welcome another newly promoted team Niger Tornadoes to the Rwang Pam Stadium in Jos to kick off the new season on Saturday.
Furthermore, there will be two teams representing Lagos state in the league this time around (Ikorodu United and MFM FC) after a long 10 years absence. Ikorodu have been particularly impressive and making some buzz with their jersey unveiling as well as a sponsorship deal with GOtv.
#NPFL returns to Lagos for the 1st time in a decade. New boys Ikorodu Utd host Abia Warriors at the Onikan Stadium pic.twitter.com/Gllf6fozlY— League Management NG (@LMCNPFL) February 19, 2016
The star fixture will be the following day in Kano, where home team Pillars take on Enugu Rangers at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.
Week One fixtures
Plateau United vs Niger Tornadoes 4pm
Sunday (All games kick off at 4pm)
Giwa vs IfeanyiUbah
Nasarawa vs MFM
Rivers United vs Enyimba
3SC vs Lobi
Sunshine vs Akwa United
Ikorodu vs Abia Warriors
El Kanemi vs Wikki
Heartland vs Wolves
Pillars vs Rangers