JIGAWA GOLDEN STARS, AKWA STARLETS DEBUT AS NPFL NEW SEASON KICKS OFF

JIGAWA GOLDEN STARS, AKWA STARLETS DEBUT AS NPFL NEW SEASON KICKS OFF

BY MUYIWA AKINTUNDE

The 2019/20 season finally opens in eight centres across the country after some delays. Title holders Enyimba and Federation Cup defending champions Rangers will be excused to face continental assignments.

Jigawa Golden Stars will be marking their debut in the topflight when they file out at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi to face Wikki Tourists.

The Badaru Boys had emerged from Northern Group A2 of the Nigerian National League at the end of last season and then defeated NAF FC 3-2 in the promotion playoffs, while Wikki Tourists, the Giant Elephant, finished seventh in Group A of the NPFL last term to stay safe.

Another debutante Akwa Starlets will also make their bow on the road, this time to Delta Force, which acquired Kada City FC of Kaduna last season. The Starlets emerged victorious in Southern B2 of the NNL and then dispatched Shooting Stars 3-0 in the promotion playoffs.

Delta Force, now based in Asaba, were seventh on the log in Group B of the NPFL in the preceding season.

Adamawa United, also a promoted side, will be away to FC Ifeanyi Ubah as they celebrate their return to the topflight after 12 years of absence. United beat FRSC 2-1 in the promotion playoffs.

Their hosts this evening ended last season as third placed team in Group B of the regular season but became the whipping side of the Super Six losing all five matches and conceding 14 goals as against six converted.

At the Warri Township Stadium, Warri Wolves will count on their fans who have been denied NPFL action since they got relegated at the end of the 2015/16 season.

Wolves topped Southern B4 zone of the NNL and beat Dynamite FC on penalties in the promotion playoffs.

For Wolves, memories of that season’s last day actions linger. They and MFM FC had gone into Matchday 38 needing to win to stay afloat, both playing on their home grounds and the Lagos side posting only goal difference advantage.

The matches ended with the same scoreline of 1-0, MFM beating FC Ifeanyi Ubah to avoid relegation, while Warri Wolves, whose Chairman is NFF President Amaju Pinnick, dropped to the lower division despite their victory over already relegated Ikorodu United. Only a five-goal margin separated MFM and Warri Wolves.

Last season’s runners-up Kano Pillars will welcome Rivers United to Sani Abacha Stadium, the latter hoping to improve on last season’s showing when they marginally missed the Super Six.

Four-time Nigerian champions, Pillars failed to make a mark in the continent this season losing at the first time of asking to Ghana’s Asante Kotoko 4-3 aggregate in CAF Champions League.

Another top clash is in Jos where 2018 champions Lobi Stars will be guests of 2017 winners Plateau United. United did not impress last season as they almost got relegated from Group B, only beating El-Kanemi Warriors and Gombe United by goal difference. Lobi Stars, who made it to the Super Six, however lost three of five matches to finish fifth.

If the League Management Company and other stakeholders remain faithful to the calendar will end on May 31 next year.

Matchday 1:
Wikki Tourists v Jigawa Golden Stars
Plateau United v Lobi Stars
Delta Force v Akwa Starlets
Kano Pillars v Rivers United
Heartland v MFM
FC Ifeanyi Ubah v Adamawa United
Warri Wolves v Akwa United
Abia Warriors v Katsina United

Postponed Fixtures

Rangers v Sunshine Stars
Enyimba v Nasarawa United

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