By Adeboye Amosu: The 2018 Nigeria Professional Football League(NPFL) season will gets underway today (Saturday) with four time champions Kano Pillars facing home side, Katsina United, in a northern derby at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium, Completesportsnigeria. com reports (CNS).
Nine games will be played on Sunday with Champions Plateau United facing a tricky away fixture against Nasarawa United at the Lafia Township Stadium.
The Solid Miners have failed to record a win against the champions in their last three league meetings. They have also failed to score in those three games.
Former champions, Enyimba, will be the guest of Lobi Stars at the Aper Aku Stadium.
Enyimba coach, Paul Aigbogun, will hope to start his third stint at the club on a positive note but he faces a daunting task at a ground where his team has recorded just two wins in their last 15 visits.
Last season’s runners-up, MFM FC will be up against Abia Warriors at the Umuahia Township Stadium.
The trio of Stephen Odey Austin Ogunye and Oladele Oshobe are no longer at the club, while they also missed out on signing Victor Mbaoma from Remo Stars.
Handler of the team, Fidelis Ilechukwu, will now bank on Adegboyega Adekunle and Waheed Adebayo to deliver the goods for his team.
Abia Warriors now managed by former FC Ifeanyiubah coach, Rafael Everton – a Brazilian, have lost only once in four meetings against MFM.
Enugu Rangers who also have a new coach (Gbenga Ogunbote) in charge, have a chance to continue their impressive away record against Akwa United in Uyo.
The hosts have failed to beat Rangers in their last five encounters in Uyo with the Flying Antelopes recording a famous 3-2 win two seasons ago at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
At the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, Heartland who were relegated to the Bet9ja Nigeria National League for first time since the formation of the club in 2016 will mark their return to the topflight with an home game against Sunshine Stars.
The Naze Millionaires had a poor pre-season exercise playing just two games, losing both and are also hampered by lack of funds.
Sunshine Stars thrashed their hosts 3-0 the last time both teams met at the same venue in May 2015.
In another match day one fixture, Rivers United will face El-Kanemi Warriors, same opponent in their opening game of last season at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium.
El- Kanemi Warriors have a poor record at the ground with nine defeats from their previous nine visits.
The Maiduguri club will also be without new coach Imama Amapakabo who is on international assignment with the home-based Super Eagles at the African Nations Championship in Morocco.
The city of Ilorin will witness Premier League football for the first time in three years when Kwara United play hosts to Niger Tornadoes.
Another newly promoted team, Yobe Desert Stars who are back in the NPFL after spending 15 years in the NNL have a tough opening day clash against FC Ifeanyiubah in Nnewi.
In the last fixture for the weekend, Go-Round FC will play their first ever NPFL game against Wikki Tourists at their adopted home ground in Jos.
MATCH DAY ONE FIXTURES
Saturday, January 13
Katsina United vs Kano Pillars
Sunday, January 14
Kwara United vs Niger Tornadoes
Ifeanyiubah vs Yobe Desert Stars
Wikki Tourists vs Go-Round
Akwa United vs Enugu Rangers
Lobi Stars vs Enyimba
Heartland vs Sunshine Stars
Nasarawa United vs Plateau United
Rivers United vs El-Kanemi Warriors
Abia Warriors vs MFM FC