After a very long wait, the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, season will finally begin on Sunday at 10 match venues across the country.
The League Management Company, LMC, confirmed earlier this month that the new season will commence on December 27, putting an end to speculations surrounding the league.
The LMC has also secured a broadcasting partnership deal with Red Strike to provide full coverage of the 2020/2021 NPFL on different platforms which will be accessed online.
The Athletic NG will bring you full coverage of the league and we will start by previewing what to expect on the opening day of the new season.
Plateau United vs Kwara United
Plateau United was denied champion status when the 2019/2020 season was cancelled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. Coach Abdu Maikaba’s team were in cruised control with 4 points separating them from second-placed Rivers United. They won 14 of the 25 matches last season, losing just 4 and 7 draws which placed them top of the league table with 49 points.
Plateau United have brought in new players to bolster their squad with the acquisition of Abdulrahaman Bashir (Enyimba), Aliu Salawudeen (unattached), Moses Effiong (Dakkada FC), Sunday Adetunji (Free) and Dennis Nya (Akwa United).
While Kwara United ended last season in the relegation zone, sitting 19th after 25 matches, winning just 8 of their fixtures. They lost 13 times last season with a goal difference of -10.
The Illorin-based side have made changes to their side, bringing in new players with Brazilian winger Ribeiro Alves Lucas arriving. They’ve also signed Adeshina Gata (Gombe United), Michael Ohanu (Akwa United), Dele Aiyenugba (Free agent), Jide Fatokun (Sunshine Stars) Kabiru Adeniji (MFM FC), Jide Williams (Heartland FC) and Afeez Nosiru (Niger Tornadoes).
LMC has recently approved the New Jos Stadium for NPFL matches on a temporary basis but fans will not be permitted to be at the stadium to support their teams.
Prediction: Plateau United 3 – 1 Kwara United
Akwa United vs Dakkada FC
This fixture is called ‘Ibom Derby‘ and it will be the third time these two teams will be facing each other in the league. Both teams are owned and sponsored by the Akwa Ibom State Government, with Dakkada FC making their debut last season in the top flight.
The first leg ended 0-1 to Akwa United and the second leg treated fans to a spectacle of goals with both teams scoring twice to end the match at 2-2.
This season, it is going to be different. Dakkada FC lost Head Coach Caleb Esu and the majority of players that played last season, while Akwa United have recruited well, bringing in 9 new players, mostly young and hungry players who are willing to improve their games.
Former NPFL champion Mfon Udoh (Enyimba 2015) has returned to Akwa United for a third-time ahead of the 2020/2021 league season
The biggest name that joined the Promise Keepers this season is the return of NPFL hitman, Mfon Udoh, who has returned to the club for a third spell following a difficult few months in the USA with FC Tulsa, in which the 28-year-old suffered series of injuries.
Dakkada FC recently unveiled Umar Danlami as the new head coach. They struggled to create chances during preseason, with only experienced captain Aniekan Ekpe to provide creativity from midfield. They are going into this game as underdogs and will remain so throughout the season until they can find solution to the attacking side of their game.
Prediction: Akwa United 2 – 0 Dakkada FC
Rivers United vs Enugu Rangers
Rivers United ended last season in second place before league organisers introduced the Point Per Game (PPG) format which relegated them to third position and a place in the CAF Confederation Cup. It is fair to say that the Pride of Rivers have not disappointed so far, looking all but set to qualify for the group stages of the competition with a surprise 0-2 victory against Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa.
Technical Adviser looks to have addressed the need for a creative and proven midfielder with the arrival of Godwin Aguda from Saudi Arabian club, Al Washim. The midfielder has hit the ground running, scoring important goals during the preseason and in the qualifying stages of the Confederation Cup. He has found the back of the net three times already this season, scoring in all of Rivers United’s three matches so far.
Rivers United has also signed experienced and Super Eagles duo of goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai and defender Ifeanyi Anaemena from rivals Enyimba, and have striker Bobby Clement running at opposition defenders.
While Enugu Rangers who have been quiet so far are working behind the scene, hoping to get something from a confident Rivers United in Port Harcourt.
Coach Salisu Yusuf has shuffled the park a little bit, bringing in Esor Archibong from Dakkada FC and Oluwafemi Ajayi from Abia Warriors. The team has also retained the services of former Etoile Du Sahel midfield maestro, Aniefiok Godspower (Tower).
Last season, Enugu Rangers picked maximum points at the Cathedral but the return fixture was never played due to the cancellation of the league season.
Prediction: Rivers United 2 – 2 Enugu Rangers
FC Ifeanyi Ubah vs Lobi Stars
Lobi Stars earned four points from the two fixtures last season against FC Ifeanyi Ubah, pulling a 0-0 draw in Nnewi before earning a 1-0 victory at the Aper Aku Stadium. Ifeanyi Ubah have lost captain Uche Okafor to Akwa United and no story of players coming in or leaving the team.
Prediction: FC Ifeanyi Ubah 0 – 0 Lobi Stars
Adamawa United vs Kano Pillars
This should not be a difficult game for Kano Pillars on paper. Last season, they won 2-0 at the Sani Abacha Stadium, but worries are that Pillars will not be at their best against neighbours in the Northern derby with poor results in the CAF Confederation Cup first round preliminary round which they lost to Senegalese side AS Jaraaf.
Prediction: Adamawa United 0-0 Kano Pillars
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